Biomarker research of liver damage is based on the assumption that the diseased liver will cause a specific change in the chemical compounds it metabolises (breaks down) or syntheses (produces) and that an alteration in concentration of such metabolites (Metabonomics) in blood or urine will provide an earlier marker of disease than is currently possible through routine tests.
Application of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy techniques to the study of urine, serum or plasma, bile or intact liver tissue (so-called metabolic profiling or metabonomics) may provide such a clinical platform, with the advantage of enabling rapid throughput of samples but the disadvantage of detecting only smaller metabolites present in sufficient concentration. Alternatively use of mass spectrometry (so-called proteomics) may provide an analytical measure of the proteins present, with the advantage of being able to detect compounds present in low concentration but the disadvantage of only one measurement being possible.
Current research at the Institute of Hepatology builds on experience in developing and applying clinical hepatic magnetic resonance spectroscopy techniques in an imaging setting, for example in measuring hepatic lipid levels in chronic hepatitis C, as well as using NMR spectroscopy to develop clinical biomarkers.
The immediate objective of the Metabonomics and Proteomics Group (MPG) is to optimise NMR methodologies for the study of clinical urine samples.
1. Biomarkers of sensitivity/resistance to paracetamol-induced hepatotoxicity (in collaboration with MRC and Imperial College London)
2. Prediction of progressive steatohepatitis in a cohort of NAFLD and diabetic patients in Saudi Arabia (in collaboration with King Saud University, Riyadh, KSA)
3. Stratification of patients with minimal hepatic encephalopthy according to disease severity and circadian rhythm (in collaboration with Imperial College London and King’s College London)