The goal of this project was to collect blood or skin tissue from subjects with liver diseases to learn more about the factors that provoke these illnesses. We focused our attention on two specific liver diseases: (a) hepatitis C and (b) non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, otherwise known as “NASH” or “fatty liver disease.” Hepatitis C and fatty liver disease are the two most common liver diseases in the state of California.
In patients infected with the hepatitis C virus, factors such as race, genetic makeup and immunologic makeup can affect the severity of disease and can influence individual responses to antiviral drug treatment. Our goal was to recruit hepatitis C-infected individuals from diverse backgrounds, to enable scientists to use stem cells from these subjects to study how liver cells from different individuals respond to virus infection. We enrolled 117 adults with hepatitis C (62% white, 38% non-white).
In the case of fatty liver disease, we recruited subjects who had a proven diagnosis of this disease based on a liver biopsy. Fatty liver disease typically occurs in people who are overweight and have additional health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. It is very common in people of Hispanic descent. We enrolled 48 adults with fatty liver disease into the study. Although the subjects were from diverse backgrounds, the majority (66%) were Hispanic. The long-term objective of the work is to permit scientists to use stem cells from these subjects to investigate genetic factors that cause fatty liver disease. Scientists can also study whether liver cells made from the stem cells are unusually sensitive to injury from fat accumulation.