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Vitamin D for Chronic Liver Disease

Chronic liver disease usually deteriorates progressively when fibrous scar tissue accumulates, leading to liver fibrosis. Chronic liver disease usually results from chronic hepatitis, excessive alcohol intake and, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). There are no effective drug treatments for liver fibrosis at present, but scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies believe they might have discovered a possible treatment for the condition.

Ronald M. Evans, a professor in Salk’s Gene Expression Laboratory and lead researcher in the Institute’s new Helmsley Center for Genomic Medicine reports that they have discovered that a synthetic form of vitamin D, calcipotriol, deactivates fibrosis in the liver of laboratory mice. Calcipotriol is an FDA-approved drug used for the treatment of psoriasis.

The investigators found that there are high levels of vitamin D receptors in the stellate cell, a star-shaped cell in the liver that produces fibrotic proteins during the healing process following liver damage. This led them to the discovery that a genetic switch can prevent fibrosis through which vitamin D-related compounds such as calcitriol.

The study, which is published in the journal Cell, suggests that calcipotriol fights the fibrotic response in liver cells, which provides a potentially safer and more effective treatment for preventing the progression of chronic liver disease.

The authors state that clinical trials for the treatment of liver fibrosis using the vitamin D analog are being planned. They believe that the synthetic vitamin D analog is better than natural vitamin D, it is less likely to breakdown and that it produces a strong response without increasing calcium in the blood.

The researchers believe that this new form of treatment for liver fibrosis may also be helpful in treating other fibrotic diseases, including those of the kidney, pancreas, and lung.


Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Sunshine hormone, vitamin D, may offer hope for treating liver fibrosis. ScienceDaily.

Posted in: Liver Disease, News Briefs, Vitamin D

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