Metabolic Disease

Genes and BMI conspire to make fatty liver

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Science  19 May 2017:
Vol. 356, Issue 6339, pp. 713-714
DOI: 10.1126/science.356.6339.713-d

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is estimated to affect 20% of the world's population. NAFLD begins with an abnormal buildup of fat in the liver that is “clinically silent.” In a subset of individuals, NAFLD progresses to liver inflammation, cirrhosis, and cancer. Identifying which individuals will progress is a major goal of current research. Stender et al. take a step toward this goal by studying gene-environment interactions. They find that high BMI (body mass index), a well-known risk factor for NAFLD, amplifies the effects of certain genetic risk factors. Obese individuals carrying a specific allele of the PNPLA3 gene, for example, have nearly a sixfold greater risk of developing cirrhosis than obese individuals carrying a different allele.

Nat. Genet. 10.1038/ng.3855 (2017).

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