A Tainan-based research team from National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) has discovered the pathogenesis of liver fibrosis and developed antibodies that reduce liver damage, inhibit hepatic fibrosis, and recover liver function.
Professor Ming-Shi Chang, PhD, Chair Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at NCKU, has led the team to make another breakthrough in their research on interleukin 20 (IL-20), the university revealed at a press conference on June 3.
Currently, NCKU has been granted a patent in the United States of America, US 860347 B1, “Use of IL-20 Antagonists for Treating Liver Diseases”, which has attracted great interest from the biotechnology industry.
Hepatitis, fatty liver disease, and hepatotoxicity are some of the primary disorders that lead to the development of liver diseases, according to Professor Chang, who added that inflammation of the liver can evolve into liver fibrosis and cirrhosis, and that patients with liver cirrhosis at the final stage often develop liver cancer.
Inflammation is the source of many diseases, said Professor Chang. She also said that IL-20 is involved in several inflammatory diseases.
Professor Chang’s team discovered that IL-20 is an important cause of liver diseases, and they confirmed that the liver tissue of patients with liver fibrosis, liver cirrhosis, and liver cancer have significantly higher levels of IL-20. IL-20 causes liver inflammation and increases the amount of extracellular matrix, thus causing liver fibrosis and cirrhosis.
Therefore, Professor Chang went a step further by developing an antibody that inhibits IL-20, which has been tested and confirmed to effectively inhibit liver cirrhosis in mice and to attenuate the fatty liver disease resulting from the inflammation caused by the accumulation of visceral fat. The antibody also significantly recovers the liver function of mice, as attested by reduction of ALT and AST, which are the indicators of liver function.
IL-20 is a protein secreted by the human immune system, Professor Chang said. An excessive amount of IL-20 can damage body tissue and, therefore, lead to many diseases such as osteoporosis and a variety of liver diseases.