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Dig Liver Dis. 2012 Apr;44(4):315-22. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2011.10.015. Epub 2011 Nov 25.

N-glycan based biomarker distinguishing non-alcoholic steatohepatitis from steatosis independently of fibrosis.

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Department of Hepatology and Gastroenterology, Ghent University Hospital, Ghent, Belgium.



Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a spectrum of disorders ranging from steatosis to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Steatosis of the liver is benign, whereas NASH can progress to cirrhosis or even hepatocellular carcinoma. Currently, a liver biopsy is the only validated method to distinct NASH from steatosis.


The objective of this study was to identify a biomarker specific for NASH based on the N-glycosylation of serum proteins.


N-glycosylation patterns were assessed using DNA sequencer-assisted fluorophore-assisted capillary electrophoresis and compared with histology.


Initially, a glycomarker (log[NGA2F]/[NA2]) was developed based on the results obtained in 51 obese non-alcoholic patients scheduled for bariatric surgery. Multivariate analysis showed that our glycomarker had the lowest P-value of all biomarkers in distinguishing NASH from steatosis (P=0.069). The glycomarker was validated in a cohort of 224 non-alcoholic fatty liver disease patients. In both pilot and validation study, glycomarker score increased in ascending amount of lobular inflammation (single-factor ANOVA, P ≤ 0.001 and P=0.012, respectively). The N-glycan profile of immunoglobulin G in the NASH population confirmed the significantly increased undergalactosylation present in these patients.


Our glycomarker specifically recognises liver inflammation in obese individuals which is the main trigger for the development of steatohepatitis and can differentiate between steatosis and NASH.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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