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World J Gastroenterol. 2019 Jan 14;25(2):163-177. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v25.i2.163.

Current status, problems, and perspectives of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease research.

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Department of Metabolic Regulation, Shinshu University School of Medicine, Matsumoto 390-8621, Japan.
Department of Internal Medicine, Shinshu University School of Medicine, Matsumoto 390-8621, Japan.


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a major chronic liver disease that can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver cancer, and ultimately death. NAFLD is pathologically classified as non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) or non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) based on the existence of ballooned hepatocytes, although the states have been known to transform into each other. Moreover, since the detection of ballooned hepatocytes may be difficult with limited biopsied specimens, its clinical significance needs reconsideration. Repeated liver biopsy to assess histological NAFLD activity for therapeutic response is also impractical, creating the need for body fluid biomarkers and less invasive imaging modalities. Recent longitudinal observational studies have emphasized the importance of advanced fibrosis as a determinant of NAFLD outcome. Thus, identifying predictors of fibrosis progression and developing better screening methods will enable clinicians to isolate high-risk NAFLD patients requiring early intensive intervention. Despite the considerable heterogeneity of NAFLD with regard to underlying disease, patient age, and fibrosis stage, several clinical trials are underway to develop a first-in-class drug. In this review, we summarize the present status and future direction of NAFLD/NASH research towards solving unmet medical needs.


Ballooning; Biomarker; Fibrosis; Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis; Outcome; Steatosis; Treatment

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