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Hepatol Res. 2019 Feb;49(2):212-223. doi: 10.1111/hepr.13275. Epub 2018 Nov 19.

Stevia prevents experimental cirrhosis by reducing hepatic myofibroblasts and modulating molecular profibrotic pathways.

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Laboratory of Experimental Hepatology, Department of Pharmacology, Cinvestav-IPN, Mexico City, Mexico.
Department of Infectomics and Molecular Pathogenesis, Cinvestav-IPN, Mexico City, Mexico.



The aims of the present study were to investigate the capacity of stevia leaves to prevent experimental cirrhosis induced by chronic administration of carbon tetrachloride (CCl4 ) in rats and to explore the action mechanism involved.


Liver cirrhosis was established by CCl4 treatment (400 mg/kg i.p. three times a week for 12 weeks); stevia powder was administered (100 mg/kg by gavage daily) during the CCl4 treatment. Serum markers of liver damage and hydroxyproline were evaluated and histopathological analyses were carried out. The profibrotic pathways were analyzed by western blot and immunohistochemistry.


We found for the first time that stevia cotreatment prevented the elevation of serum markers of necrosis and cholestasis and the occurrence of liver fibrosis. It is worth noting that stevia downregulated several profibrogenic pathways, including the reduction of hepatic myofibroblasts and decreased matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)2 and MMP13 expression, thereby blocking the liberation of transforming growth factor-β from the extracellular matrix. Notably, stevia reduced the phosphorylation of pSmad3L, the most profibrogenic and mitogenic Smad, by inhibiting the activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase and extracellular signal-regulated kinase. Interestingly, Smad7, an important antifibrotic molecule, was upregulated by stevia treatment in cirrhotic rats. These multitarget mechanisms led to the prevention of experimental cirrhosis.


Because stevia possesses a reasonable safety profile, our results indicate that it could be useful in the clinical setting to treat chronic liver diseases.


Smad; TGF-β; collagen; fibrosis; hepatic myofibroblast; stevia


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