Timeline of Developments in Liver Disease


  • Genetic sequence of the hepatitis B virus is determined.


  • N-acetyl cysteine (an antagonist) is used successfully to treat paracetamol overdoses. The immunosuppressant drug, cyclosporine A is used to prevent rejection of transplanted organs. Following dramatic improvements in survival rates, liver transplantation is now a well established treatment.


  • Doctors first use an endoscope in the gullet to inject veins dilated and bleeding due to liver disease. This was the first of many special adaptations to develop the use of endoscopes as a therapeutic tool.


  • Hepatitis B vaccine is developed. At-risk populations receiving the vaccination showed a profound reduction in the rates of infection.


  • Blood test using antibodies is developed to detect primary biliary cirrhosis (scarring affecting the bile ducts).


  • Sequencing of hepatitis C – a major cause of chronic infection, cirrhosis and liver cancer in populations where it is common. Screening donated blood supplies for this virus greatly improves the safety of blood transfusions worldwide.


  • Sequencing of hepatitis E, a virus common in developing countries and transmitted via infected water and food supplies.


  • Advances in molecular genetics lead to the discovery of the gene for Wilson’s disease. Further research may lead to genetic screening and gene therapy to treat this inherited disorder in which copper accumulates in the liver causing liver and brain damage.