UT Health Newsroom: Barshop Institute team discovers why liver disease is more severe in older people

Original story: UT Health San Antonio Newsroom

Lower levels of a protective protein lead to liver inflammation, scarring

Contact: Will Sansom, 210-567-2579, sansom@uthscsa.edu

SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 3, 2023) ­— Researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (also called UT Health San Antonio) have identified a molecular pathway that connects aging to end-stage liver disease. A set of mechanistic processes, observed in mice fed an ethanol diet to mimic alcohol-related liver injury, offers clues for why older people suffer more serious and persistent liver damage than younger people do, even after liver injury is stopped.

The laboratory of Mengwei Zang, MD, PhD, at the health science center’s Sam and Ann Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, reported the findings earlier this year in Aging Cell.

“Why are older individuals more likely to develop chronic liver disease compared to the young?” said Zang, professor of molecular medicine and the Ewing Halsell Distinguished Chair in Research at UT Health San Antonio. “What goes wrong with the aging liver that increases the risk of liver disease? Can we reverse these processes and maintain a younger, healthier liver? We seek answers to these questions.” Zang is also associate director of the South Texas Medical Scientist Training Program, which is the National Institutes of Health-funded MD-PhD dual-degree program at the health science center.

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