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Neurologia. 2010 May;25(4):239-47.

[Molecular aspects of hepatic encephalopathy].

[Article in Spanish]

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Unidad de Biotecnología Médica y Farmacéutica, Centro de Investigación y Asistencia en Tecnología y Diseño del Estado de Jalisco, CIATEJ, Guadalajara, México.



Liver fibrosis and its end stage, cirrhosis, is an enormous worldwide health problem. Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) or portal-systemic encephalopathy continues to be a major clinical problem of long-term cirrhosis. In this review we emphasise the molecular basis of HE and the involvement of oxidative stress in the development of this disease.


Several studies suggest that the pathogenesis of HE could be multifactorial and have implicated different factors, such as alterations in blood brain barrier, substances; such as ammonia and manganese, neurotransmission disorders such as dopamine, glutamate and GABA.


HE is a severe complication of both acute and chronic liver failure. Neuropathologically, it is characterized by astrocyte changes known as Alzheimer type II astrocytosis. In addition, astrocytes manifest altered expression of astrocyte-specific proteins, such as, glial fibrillary acidic protein, glutamine synthetase, monoamine oxidase and peripheral type benzodiazepine receptors.


HE is a complex neuropsychiatric syndrome associated with liver failure. These alterations are products of increases in oxidative stress in brain due to neurotoxin activity. The main strategy for HE treatment is directed at ammonia reduction, which can be achieved either by decreasing its absorption/production or increasing its removal.

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