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Am J Gastroenterol. 2003 Sep;98(9):2093-7.

Current biochemical studies of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis suggest a new therapeutic approach.

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  • 1Division of Gastroenterology, University of Miami, School of Medicine/Mount Sinai Medical Center, Miami, Florida, USA.

Abstract

The study population in this report by Lin et al. was ob/ob mice that have an inherited genetic deficiency of the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin. These mice develop hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, and fatty livers. Compared with their lean littermates and wild-type C57BL-6 mice, ob/ob mice have hepatomegaly. In this study, the authors compared three different groups of adult mice (aged 8-10 wk), including male ob/ob C57BL-6 mice, their lean littermates, and wild-type C57BL-6 mice of the same age and sex. The primary purpose of this study was to test the efficacy of metformin for treatment of fatty liver disease in obese, ob/ob mice that develop hyperinsulinemia or insulin resistance and fatty livers. Metformin therapy was found to eliminate fatty liver disease in this model. The potential mechanisms of the action of metformin were the inhibition of hepatic tumor necrosis factor (TNF)alpha and several TNF-inducible responses, which are likely to promote hepatic steatosis and necrosis. In these experiments, ob/ob mice were divided into three treatment groups. Group 1 consisted of eight mice that were treated with metformin and permitted to consume a nutritiously replete liquid mouse diet ad libitum. Mice in group 2 (n = 8) did not receive metformin but were pair-fed the same volume of liquid diet that the mice in the metformin-treated group had consumed on the previous day. Obese ob/ob mice in group 3 (n = 4) and lean mice received no metformin, as with the mice in group 2, but were permitted to consume the liquid diet ad libitum. Liquid diet was given to facilitate accurate daily comparison of food intake among the various treatment groups. All mice were weighed at the beginning of the study and weekly thereafter until killed and then sera, fat, and liver tissues were collected. Tissues were either fixed in buffered formalin and processed from the deceased mice for histology or snap frozen in liquid nitrogen and stored until RNA and proteins were isolated. The feeding protocol was repeated with a second group of 18 ob/ob mice. After 4 wk, hepatocytes were obtained by in situ liver perfusion with collagenase and assayed for cellular adenosine triphosphate (ATP) content. In each experiment, hepatocytes isolated from 3 mice from each treatment group were suspended in a medium and pooled for subsequent analysis to evaluate cell viability, determine the number of obtained cells, and to assay cellular ATP content. These experiments were repeated using another 3 mice from each treatment group, so that analysis of hepatocytes took place from six ob/ob mice in each feeding group.Hepatic steatosis was decreased significantly only in the metformin-treated group. The authors found that metformin's beneficial effect on the fatty liver disease of mice was not due to its ability to constrain hyperphagia, nor due to decreased caloric ingestion, because the daily caloric intakes of the metformin-treated mice and the pair-fed control mice were virtually identical. These caloric intakes were consistently approximately 20% less than that of another obese control group that was permitted to consume diet ad libitum. The authors also observed no significant effect of metformin on serum glucose concentration from fed, ob/ob mice. Metformin is known to reduce hyperinsulinemia by about 40% in both of these obese hyperinsulinemic and insulin-resistant rodent strains. In conclusion, Lin et al. documented that metformin improves fatty liver disease and reverses hepatomegaly, steatosis, and aminotransferase abnormalities in mice. In addition, the authors suggest that metformin might inhibit dieting-induced redistribution of lipid from the liver to adipose tissue depots. In summary, this study identifies a potential treatment for fatty liver disease in humans.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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