We have discovered that the evaluation of fat in muscle could serve as a non-invasive marker to help diagnose NASH, a progressive liver disease favored by the current dietary and lifestyle habits.
The study highlights that the fat content evaluated with a CT-Scan in skeletal muscles is highly reflective of the severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in patients with morbid obesity, independently from metabolic co-morbidities such as insulin-resistance, hypertension or visceral obesity. This information was up-to now only available by the analysis of a liver biopsy.
Thus, muscle fat content is strongly associated with the progressive form of the disease, i.e. non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and thus represent a biomarker for diagnosis. In addition, muscle fat content decreases upon NASH improvement supporting that we now have a tool to follow disease progression and its response to therapy. Given that an estimated 25% of the adult population has NAFLD (among which 10 to 20% potentially have NASH and are at risk of progression and complication), this work indicates that muscle fatty infiltration could be evaluated routinely as a novel non-invasive marker for NASH, opening new perspectives for the disease monitoring.
Further research is indeed ongoing to exploit at its best this technique as to identify at risk patients to which to propose therapeutic solution and intense follow-up, and to prevent life threatening complications.