New Blood Test Could Predict Liver Disease

A diagnostic blood test could diagnose patients in early stages of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

A novel blood test may be able to accurately predict the risk of developing the severe liver disease, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, prior to damage.

Scientists recently created a test to determine the onset of the liver disease through lipids, metabolites, and clinical markers in blood, according to the study published by Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology. Information used to create the test was gathered from a liver biopsy study conducted by the team of scientists.

Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis is a severe form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease that is characterized by inflammation that can lead to fibrosis that progresses into cirrhosis, portal hypertension, liver cancer, and liver failure.

Common risk factors include obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and insulin resistance. There is no cure for the disease, but lifestyle modification such as increasing physical activity may prevent progression.

Current diagnostic tests are done through an invasive liver biopsy, which is also a costly procedure. A blood test would offer patients a low-cost and non-invasive alternative.

Many patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis do not display symptoms until the disease has progressed, so a test that could diagnose patients earlier is needed. The scientists plan to develop the test further so that physicians can provide more focused care for patients at a high-risk of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, according to the study.

“Many people with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis do not have symptoms and are not aware they are developing a serious liver problem. As such, diagnosis often comes after irreversible damage is done,” said researcher Dr You Zhou. “Our quicker and less invasive method of diagnosis could mean that more people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease could be easily tested to determine whether they are progressing to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, the more severe form of the disease.”