Antioxidant may prevent alcohol-induced liver damage

May 3rd, 2011 - 2:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 3 (IANS) An antioxidant may prevent liver damage caused by excessive alcohol. The findings potentially open the way to treating and reversing steatosis, or fatty deposits in the liver that can lead to cirrhosis and cancer.

The research team, led by Victor Darley-Usmar, professor of pathology at University of Alabama, Birmingham introduced an anti-oxidant called mitochondria-targeted ubiquinone, or MitoQ, to the mitochondria (cellular powerhouse) of rats.

These rats were treated to alcohol daily for five to six weeks in an amount sufficient to duplicate excessive intake in a human, reports the journal Hepatology.

Chronic alcoholics experience a buildup of fat in the liver cells. When alcohol is metabolised in the liver, it creates free radicals that damage mitochondria in the liver cells and prevent them from using sufficient amounts of oxygen to produce energy.

Moreover, the low-oxygen condition called hypoxia worsens mitochondrial damage and promotes the formation of fatty deposits that can progress to cirrhosis, according to an Alabama statement.

Cirrhosis is a consequence of chronic liver disease characterised by replacement of liver tissue by fibrosis, scar tissue and regenerative lumps.

Darley-Usmar and his collaborators say the antioxidant MitoQ is able to intercept and neutralize free radicals before they can damage the mitochondria, preventing the cascade of effects that ultimately leads to steatosis.

“There has not been a promising pharmaceutical approach to preventing or reversing the long-term damage associated with fatty deposits in the liver that result from excessive consumption of alcohol,” said Darley-Usmar.

“Our findings suggest that MitoQ might be a useful agent for treating the liver damage caused by prolonged, habitual alcohol use.”

“Previous studies have shown that MitoQ can be safely administered long-term to humans,” said Balu Chacko, study co-author.

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