NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Celera said today that it has begun a multi-year research collaboration with the Pennsylvania-based health services company Geisinger Health System to develop an assay for diagnosing a liver condition called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH.
Around two to five percent of Americans have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease — excess fat accumulation in the liver linked to conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease — and about a quarter of these patients eventually develop NASH, serious liver inflammation and scarring that can lead to cirrhosis, Celera said.
Because there are no obvious symptoms for fat accumulation in the liver, most people do not know they have NAFLD until liver damage occurs. NASH, the advanced stage of the condition, is currently diagnosed using ultrasound and needle liver biopsies.
Through their collaboration, Geisinger and Celera plan to develop a diagnostic test for NASH by combining their work on liver genetics, such as Celera’s Cirrhosis Risk Score data, and their available samples, including Geisinger’s bank of more than 600 liver tissue and blood samples.
Financial terms of the collaboration were not disclosed.
“Understanding the natural history of NAFLD and NASH, especially identification of those patients with or at risk for NASH, represents a critical unmet diagnostic need in liver disease,” Mount Sinai’s chief of liver diseases Scott Friedman, said in a statement. “Associations of disease with various gene variants are beginning to provide keen insight into disease mechanisms that may be shared by multiple diseases.”