SLU Hepatologist Leads National Study Finding First Potential Treatment for Fatty Liver Disease

Brent Neuschwander-Tetri, M.D. serves as director of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at SLU and is a SLUCare physician.  

NIH-funded research led by SLU professor Brent Neuschwander-Tetri, M.D., and published in The Lancet, has cheered physicians and patients by finding that an experimental drug improves liver health for people suffering from nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), also known as fatty liver disease, which currently has no approved treatments.

Neuschwander-Tetri , who serves as director of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at SLU and is a SLUCare physician, says the trial represents an important advance in the search for treatments of NASH.

Over time, the accumulating liver fat that characterizes NASH leads to liver damage and affects liver function. Cases of NASH have been growing in tandem with the obesity epidemic and it is now the third most common reason for liver transplantation.

In the FLINT study, people with NASH who took obeticholic acid (OCA) showed decreased liver cell damage, inflammation and fat in the liver and also a drop in weight compared to those who received a placebo. Researchers found that 45 percent of those who were given OCA showed improved liver health versus 21 percent of those in the placebo group. Side effects of OCA appeared to be itching and increased cholesterol levels.

Larger studies will be conducted to learn more about OCA’s efficacy and safety. Read more about this research in the NIH press release, found here:

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, liver disease, heart/lung disease, aging and brain disease, and infectious diseases.

Carrie Bebermeyer