Brussels, 09 Oct 2006
Researchers in Spain and Australia have identified a protein essential to liver regeneration that could lead to treatments for serious liver diseases such as hepatitis. The protein is known as caveolin-1, and was found to be essential to regeneration by scientists from the University of Barcelona, Spain, and the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland in Australia.
'The liver has an amazing capacity to regenerate and repair itself after damage, such as a heavy session of drinking,' says Robert Parton, one of the team leaders. 'But in some diseases, such as hepatitis and cirrhosis, the liver is so damaged that it loses this regeneration capacity. Identifying that caveolin-1 is an essential ingredient in the process of liver regeneration brings us a step closer to finding treatments for people whose livers are not able to heal themselves.'
The team made its discovery by comparing normal mice with mice that were unable to produce caveolin-1. The livers of normal mice were, in the vast majority of cases, able to regenerate after damage, while three-quarters of mice without caveolin-1 died when their livers were damaged significantly.
'The livers of mice that couldn't produce caveolin-1 were not significantly different to normal mice before any damage occurred,' says Professor Parton. 'This suggests that other proteins may compensate for the lack of caveolin-1 when the liver is functioning normally, with its essential role becoming apparent only when the liver is injured.'