Liver fibrosis or liver scarring is a common cause of liver cirrhosis that experts now say could potentially be prevented with a drug normally used to help prevent allergies and asthma.
At least 30 million Americans have some form of liver disease. Some of these people suffer from liver fibrosis, which is the excessive buildup of scar tissue that can occur when inflammation and liver cell death occurs in many different types of chronic liver diseases. What happens with liver scarring is that abnormal areas of cells form as dying liver cells are replaced by regenerating cells.
New findings published in the scientific journal Hepatology indicate that cromolyn sodium can successfully block cells that lead to liver scarring. The news comes out of a joint research effort by a team at Baylor Scott and White Research Institute, Central Texas Veteran’s Health System and Texas A & M Health. The study showed that sclerosing cholangitis patients could experience the greatest benefit. Sclerosing cholangitis is a chronic disease that destroys bile ducts and thus leads to serious liver damage. The condition has no effective treatments and often puts patients in a position where they have no other option aside from a liver transplant.
During the study, the team examined mast cells (a type of white cells). They are known to invade and then multiply after a liver injury occurs, releasing histamine and creating fibrosis. The researchers used a model that mimics primary sclerosing cholangitis (PCS) and found that the drug was successful in blocking histamine and, therefore, reducing fibrosis.
Heather L. Bradley-Francis, Ph.D., commented, “This particular study was a direct outgrowth of previous published work involving the same drug for bile duct damage and liver cancer. We were pleasantly surprised to find that our data and results matched what we had hypothesized about the drug’s effect on PSC, based on that previous work.”
Primary sclerosing cholangitis causes swelling and scarring in the liver due to injury or alcohol abuse. Over time, it can lead to liver failure, serious infections, or tumors.
If more research supports this latest study, future patients could be administered cromolyn sodium to help prevent the progression of fibrosis. This, of course, could mean fewer liver transplants and a better quality of life for many people who would ordinarily be on a transplant waiting list.
Organizations like the American Liver Foundation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that just over 2,000 people die in the United States every year due to liver disease. Sometimes, we can’t completely control infections, immune abnormalities, cancer growths, or genetics that can cause liver diseases. However, we do have control over the amount of alcohol we consume and what we eat, which can also have a devastating impact on our liver. Between a healthy lifestyle and potential new solutions, like the use of asthma treatment, one day there could be a significantly lower mortality rate linked to liver cirrhosis.