Ongoing Research Funded by DHF
Predicting Relapse in Liver Failure (Autoimmune Hepatitis) Patients for Personalized Treatment
Principal Investigator: Josh Levitsky, MD, Professor of Medicine (Gastroenterology and Hepatology), Medical Education and Surgery (Organ Transplantation), Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine
Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) occurs when the body’s immune system attacks its own liver cells, causing long term scarring and damage to the liver. No one knows precisely what causes autoimmune hepatitis (AIH), but it is diagnosed more frequently in patients with other autoimmune diseases (e.g., celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.) and in women, and often begins in adolescence or young adulthood. Standard treatment focuses on suppressing the immune system with medications, yet immunosuppressants have many potentially harmful side effects. General recommendations call for patients to stop taking the medications when they are no longer needed. Unfortunately, without them, most patients soon relapse and risk more liver injury. Currently, tracking relapses requires taking a biopsy of the liver—a very invasive procedure—and looking at it under the microscope. The Levisky lab believes that measuring levels of biomarkers in the blood may offer a less invasive window into the liver than a traditional biopsy, giving physicians the ability to predict AIH relapse before the liver incurs any damage. This project offers the potential for better monitoring of patients with AIH. It also may shape the future of personalized treatments to individualize immunosuppressant therapy by using simple, cost effective blood draws rather than riskier liver biopsies.
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