Fatty liver: First drug therapy discovered

Can fatty liver diseases be treated?

The fatty liver is the most common liver disease. Around every fourth adult in Germany suffers from it - often without knowing it. Because the liver disease does not cause direct complaints for a long time. Despite the high prevalence in the population, there is no direct treatment. A research team has now discovered the first active ingredient that slows down fatty liver disease.

Researchers at the American University of California School of Medicine in San Diego discovered for the first time an active ingredient that is able to slow the progression of the widespread non-alcoholic fatty liver, so that the liver disease does not develop into more dangerous forms such as liver cancer or fatty liver hepatitis as quickly (Steatohepatitis) developed further. The research results were recently presented in the renowned journal "The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology".

Why fatty liver can become dangerous

Although millions of people in Germany are affected by fatty liver, most people do not notice it because the liver disease is symptom-free over a long period of time. As a rule, fatty liver is only recognized at an advanced stage when the liver is inflamed. Then doctors speak of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). This is a preliminary stage for dangerous diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer and can lead to liver failure.

Who is at risk

The exact reasons for the development of a non-alcoholic fatty liver have not yet been sufficiently understood. Some of the causes appear to be genetic in nature. The risk factors that can be influenced include body weight and diet. According to the German Liver Aid, people with existing liver diseases, overweight or diabetes and women in the menopause are at greater risk.

No treatment currently available

There is currently no drug treatment for fatty liver. Consistent changes in lifestyle can completely reduce fatty liver. This usually requires significant weight loss and a change in diet, coupled with increased physical activity.

"NAFLD was not even recognized as a disease three decades ago - now it is alarmingly widespread, affects approximately a quarter of all Americans and is becoming a leading cause of liver transplantation in the United States," emphasized lead author Professor Rohit Loomba. More effective treatment is absolutely necessary.

Active ingredient inhibits blood lipid production

The new active ingredient "IONIS-DGAT2" belongs to the so-called antisense inhibitors. The active ingredient inhibits the production of triglycerides, a type of fat found in the blood. High levels of this blood fat promote fat storage throughout the body, including the liver.

The drug was tested in a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled phase II study in 44 participants. For those who received the active ingredient, liver function tests improved without further intervention. "These results showed a robust reduction in liver fat without a corresponding increase in blood lipids," summarizes Loomba. It looks as if the active ingredient can curb fatty liver disease within 13 weeks, according to the head of research. The drug will now be tested on a larger group of people before it becomes available to the general public. (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Deutsche Leberhilfe e.V .: fatty liver (NASH / ASH) (accessed: June 17, 2020),
  • Rohit Loomba, Erin Morgan, Lynnetta Watts, et al .: Novel antisense inhibition of diacylglycerol O-acyltransferase 2 for treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease: a multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled phase 2 trial; in: The Lancet Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 2020,
  • University of California: Novel Antisense Drug Shows Promise in Slowing Fatty Liver Disease (published June 16, 2020),

Video: Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (January 2022).