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Clin Liver Dis. 2000 Nov;4(4):831-48.

Liver disease caused by disorders of bile acid synthesis.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Pediatrics, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.


Bile acid synthetic defects are uncommon disorders that cause progressive cholestatic liver disease that is often lethal in infancy or early childhood. Five specific primary defects have been described. Diagnosis is based on mass spectrometry of urine and serum. Pathogenesis of liver injury is related to persistent reduction in levels of normal bile acids and accumulation of abnormal, potentially hepatotoxic, intermediaries. Sites of injury are the liver cell, the bile canaliculus, and the smallest bile ductules. The interlobular bile ducts are normal. The liver lesion is progressive chronic hepatitis with an especially high incidence of GCT in patients who present in infancy. Bile acid replacement therapy is usually effective in arresting the liver injury. Regression of liver damage has been documented during treatment of patients who were diagnosed early in life. Because bile acid synthetic disorders are the only cholestatic diseases of infancy in which GCT of hepatocytes is consistently present, the author suggest that the injury responsible for GCT may be specific for toxic bile acids. Accordingly, immaturity of the bile acid synthetic pathway may render many otherwise normal infants vulnerable to transient "neonatal hepatitis" with GCT in a broad range of cholestatic disorders.

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