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McGill Wins $1.4M Liver Disease Biomarker Study

By a GenomeWeb staff reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) in Montreal has received a C$1.4 million (US$1.4 million) grant from a non-profit funding agency in Quebec to search for diagnostic biomarkers for two related liver conditions .

McGill will use the grant from a Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ) competition to identify markers for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which are leading causes of chronic liver diseases.

NAFLD is frequently associated with obesity and affects about one third of the world's adult population. In about 25 percent of those adults the condition progresses to NASH, which leads to inflammation and damage.

Currently, there is no single reliable biochemical marker that can diagnose NAFLD or its progression to NASH and there are not many treatment options for the condition except for palliative care or liver transplant.

The four-year interdisciplinary studies will create a new competitive research program in translational research and seek to discover diagnostic markers to accurately identify patients with NAFLD and NASH, which "are urgently needed to provide cost-effective care," McGill said recently.

"One of the goals of our project is to identify new and valuable disease 'predictors' or biomarkers that will allow physicians to better understand and predict the progression of NAFLD and NASH," explained Tommy Nilsson, who is director of proteomics at The McGill University and Genome Quebec Innovation Centre and director of the Proteomics and Systems Medicine Program at RI-MUHC.

"These predictors could form the basis of new diagnostic tests or treatment options. If successful in liver disease, the methods used here could be applied to other complex diseases," Nilsson said.

"If successful, this work will create the road map to building personalized medicine programs across a spectrum of diseases that could lead to changes in healthcare delivery," added RI-MUHC Director Vassilos Papadopoulos.

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