Liver Fibrosis / Scarring
Dr James Pritchett

Liver fibrosis (scarring of the liver).

Guts UK is delighted to award Dr James Pritchett and the team at Manchester Metropolitan University £29,138 for their research into liver fibrosis (scarring).

What is liver fibrosis?

Liver fibrosis is scarring of the liver. It is a serious health problem worldwide and shockingly the third most common cause of premature death in the UK and continues to rise. It can occur due to factors like diet or infection, but the only treatment for end stage liver fibrosis is a liver transplant. Therefore, there is an urgent need to understand more about the mechanisms that cause liver scarring in the first place.

Scarring is caused when normal healing response to injuries become disorganised. In a healthy organ, collagen supports important structures, but after injury, collagen is often produced in abnormal quantities and a disorderly pattern. When this continues over time, the scarring will disrupt the way organs normally work. Advanced scarring may ultimately lead to death.

What do we know already?

It is known that scars forming in the liver is driven by cells called hepatic stellate cells (HSC). Scarring makes the liver harder and this ‘stiffness’ affects how liver cells behave. Dr Pritchett and his colleagues have identified a molecule in previous research, known as Yes Associated Protein 1 (YAP1). This molecule becomes more active when liver tissue becomes stiffer. The team discovered that YAP1 is crucial for the formation of scarring, but they don’t know how.

What does this research hope to discover?

The team hope to grow these liver cells on a petri dish. They will then use cutting edge technology to understand how the protein, YAP1 interacts with other molecules to form a scar. Dr Pritchett and his team aim to discover how this protein can encourage these HSC cells to continue producing collagen and other molecules, in response to the liver becoming stiffer.

How might this research benefit me?

This research has the potential to help us better understand how liver scarring occurs. With new knowledge and further research, the hope is that we may be able to prevent or even reverse this scarring process.

“This funding from Guts UK will allow me to explore how the changes in tissue stiffness affect how liver cells behave. We hope this will help reveal targets for urgently needed liver fibrosis treatment.”

Liver fibrosis is the third most common cause of premature death in the UK. It continues to rise. Guts UK is dedicated to funding research that will diagnose earlier, develop kinder treatments and ultimately, discover a cure. 

Guts UK is the only UK charity funding research into the digestive system from top to tail. Our research has the capacity to save lives. Your donations make it possible. Help the UK get to grips with guts by donating to Guts UK today.

Discover more:

> Timings & Scientific Title

Dr James Pritchett • Manchester Metropolitan University • Awarded £29,138 from Guts UK

Scientific Title: Decoding Yes Associated Protein 1 driven hepatic stellate cell activation.

Timings: September 2020 – August 2022