The debilitating liver disease NASH, a consequence of bad diets, is on the rise. So is the pipeline of drugs trying to arrest it.

NASH is the most dangerous form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It has gained a lot of interest in public health sectors because it is frequently a comorbid condition accompanying common ailments like obesity, type II diabetes and metabolic syndrome.In order to study NASH in the preclinical space, you need a reliable animal model. Unfortunately, not all animals develop NASH, and even if they do they may not develop it at the same pace. Another challenge with animal models is finding a reliable way of scoring the severity or progress of the disease.  In humans you can look at the degree of liver damage, from mild fibrosis to cirrhosis. Unfortunately, this approach is too broad and not easily quantifiable.

Yet Joe Cornicelli, Senior Director of in Vivo Pharmacology at Charles River’s Shrewsbury, Massachusetts site and an expert in metabolic diseases like NASH, says we are learning more and more how to use animal models to understand NASH and develop drugs to treat it. We’ve gotten better and better at classifying which mice are early or non-progressors and which ones are rapid progressors–important in figuring out how to assess response to new drugs. And we are developing biomarkers that can help hone in on what’s going on in the animal pathology.

“With very careful work involving things like proteomics, bioinformatics, transcriptomics, we can come up with biomarkers that are specific for the disease that will really enable us to number one, find out which patients would qualify for which kinds of therapies, which therapies work best on which aspects of the disease you’re trying to ameliorate,” says Cornicelli.

Tune into our podcast (link above) to hear the entire story about the work being done to combat NASH.

We hope you enjoyed this episode of Sounds of Science Podcast on the disease known as NASH. Because of the New Year’s Holiday, our next podcast, which usually appears on the first Tuesday of the month, will instead be airing on Jan. 8.