Research is underway

NASH (non‑alcoholic steatohepatitis) has become a big area of interest in the medical research field. One reason may be the growing number of cases of NASH. Another may be that NASH is more serious than originally thought. In any case, gaining a better understanding of NASH—including the search for new ways to help control it—has become a priority.

Targeting fibrosis

NASH Timeline: 1980 to present day

NASH wasn’t even recognized until the 1980s.

That’s when scientists first began to realize there was a much more dangerous, progressive form of non‑alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). This was no longer just an issue involving fat in the liver, but one involving fibrosis (scarring of the liver)—and an increased risk of serious liver damage.

Research then turned to finding the best way to address NASH medically. The difference between NASH and non‑alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) had been clearly determined to be the presence of liver inflammation and liver cell injury with the possibility of fibrosis. With this in mind—and knowing the damage that fibrosis can cause the liver over time—scientists set their sights on finding a medication that could slow, stop, or reverse fibrosis due to NASH.

More recently, studies have shown fibrosis due to NASH can progress faster than previously thought—especially for those with advanced fibrosis (where scarring has spread throughout the liver). Some people with NASH move quickly from advanced fibrosis without cirrhosis (a form of advanced fibrosis where the liver is extremely scarred, hardened, and no longer able to do its job) to advanced fibrosis with cirrhosis. For patients with advanced fibrosis, stopping the progression of fibrosis—or reversing it⁠—is a key goal. Development of treatments aimed at doing so is an area of active and intensified research.

As many as 1 in 5 people with advanced fibrosis without cirrhosis may progress to advanced fibrosis with cirrhosis within 2.5 years.*

Research into NASH continues today. Check back in frequently with this site and with your doctor for any new developments in NASH.

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Communicate with your doctor

Whether you’re working with your general physician or a liver specialist, it’s important to check in with your doctor regularly about NASH. For one thing, it’s a good way to keep an eye out for fibrosis due to NASH—and track its progression if it’s already been identified. For another, your doctor will probably be among the first to hear any news about NASH.

Are you having the right conversation?

Here are a few talking points for your next doctor visit.

*In a study of patients with biopsy-proven NASH, 48 of 217 patients (22%) with advanced fibrosis without cirrhosis progressed to advanced fibrosis with cirrhosis at around 29 months.