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Antioxid Redox Signal. 2011 Jul 15;15(2):535-50. doi: 10.1089/ars.2010.3749. Epub 2011 Apr 26.

New insights from rodent models of fatty liver disease.

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Liver Center and Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco San Francisco, California, USA.


Rodent models of fatty liver disease are essential research tools that provide a window into disease pathogenesis and a testing ground for prevention and treatment. Models come in many varieties involving dietary and genetic manipulations, and sometimes both. High-energy diets that induce obesity do not uniformly cause fatty liver disease; this has prompted close scrutiny of specific macronutrients and nutrient combinations to determine which have the greatest potential for hepatotoxicity. At the same time, diets that do not cause obesity or the metabolic syndrome but do cause severe steatohepatitis have been exploited to study factors important to progressive liver injury, including cell death, oxidative stress, and immune activation. Rodents with a genetic predisposition to overeating offer yet another model in which to explore the evolution of fatty liver disease. In some animals that overeat, steatohepatitis can develop even without resorting to a high-energy diet. Importantly, these models and others have been used to document that aerobic exercise can prevent or reduce fatty liver disease. This review focuses primarily on lessons learned about steatohepatitis from manipulations of diet and eating behavior. Numerous additional insights about hepatic lipid metabolism, which have been gained from genetically engineered mice, are also mentioned.

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