Is alcoholic liver disease in your genes?

Wednesday, 15 April, 2015

The US Government has invested $2.5 million in an international study to determine the role of genetics in alcoholic liver disease (cirrhosis) - a condition which costs $3.8 billion a year in Australia alone.

The study is being led by Dr Devanshi Seth from Sydney’s Centenary Institute. She said, “It is widely accepted that 15-20% of chronic excessive drinkers will develop cirrhosis, although rates of up to 50% have been reported.

“There is widespread acceptance among liver specialists that not all patients who drink excessive alcohol will develop cirrhosis. Our study is working to uncover the genetic factors that increase the risk of developing cirrhosis.”

Dr Devanshi Seth.

The study is recruiting 5000 participants across the world, located in Australia, France, Germany, Switzerland, the UK and the USA. Dr Seth noted that alcohol consumption levels have so far been “similar in drinkers who did not have liver disease as to those who had cirrhosis, emphasising the existence of individual vulnerability factors”.

Furthermore, many of the participants with cirrhosis have reported that their father consumed excessive quantities of alcohol and had died from liver disease. According to Dr Seth, this underscores and exemplifies the heritability of this disease.

In the next stages of this study, it is expected that the information generated will provide the first ‘genetic architecture’ of alcoholic cirrhosis and identify risk factors. Dr Seth believes the study will ultimately lead to better and earlier diagnosis and treatment of the condition.

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