In a paper published this month in Hepatology, researchers demonstrate a coherent remodelling of metabolic pathways in hepatocytes during liver regeneration and in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
The liver is one of the most active metabolic organs of the human body, characterised by a high degree of plasticity that allows regeneration and healing following acute and chronic damage. Similar mechanisms drive the formation of HCC, one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths world-wide. Intriguingly, hepatocytes have been shown to ‘rewire’ their metabolism during these processes. Therefore, metabolic pathways have been proposed as candidate targets to control liver cell proliferation, the progression of chronic liver disease (e.g. in fatty liver), and carcinogenesis.
Using an integrated systems biology approach, the study found an increase in formation of monounsaturated phosphatidylcholine that was critical for the hepatocytes’ switch to proliferation and carcinogenesis. These results suggest novel targets for the development of new therapeutic strategies and prognostic biomarkers of chronic liver disease and HCC that will attract the interest of researchers focussing on metabolism, hepatology and cancer.
This collaborative study was led jointly by the IMS-MRL and the Cambridge University Department of Biochemistry. IMS-MRL researchers involved were from the Vidal-Puig Group and the Bioinformatics and Biostatistics Core.