Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) is the most common liver condition in the developed world, estimated to affect nearly one quarter of the US and Canada. It is a complex metabolic disease that parallels incidence to obesity and a high fat diet. One important complication of NAFLD is Hepatocellular Carcinoma (HCC). HCC is of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths worldwide, with a 5-year survival rate of only 20%. Advanced stages of HCC have no effective treatments available. A serendipitous discovery in our lab has revealed a protein that is capable of enhancing proliferation of liver cells and promotes the development of NAFLD with an increased susceptibility of progressing to HCC.
This project will focus on determining how this protein changes the cell biology and the fat that accumulates in the liver that can lead to the formation of liver cancer. Results from this work could reveal new ways of detecting aggressive NAFLD early and new avenues of treatment for this aggressive form of disease.