Open Access Research

Enhanced serum concentrations of transforming growth factor-beta1 in simple fatty liver: is it really benign?

Giovanni Tarantino1*, Paolo Conca1, Antonio Riccio1, Marianna Tarantino2, Matteo N Di Minno1, Domenico Chianese3, Fabrizio Pasanisi1, Franco Contaldo1, Francesco Scopacasa3 and Domenico Capone4

Author Affiliations

1 Federico II University Medical School of Naples, Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, Naples, Italy

2 Federico II University Medical School of Naples, Department of Biomorphological and Functional Sciences, Naples, Italy

3 Federico II University Medical School of Naples, Department of Biochemistry and Medical Biotechnology, Naples, Italy

4 Federico II University Medical School of Naples, Department of Neurosciences, Section of Clinical Pharmacology, Naples, Italy

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Journal of Translational Medicine 2008, 6:72  doi:10.1186/1479-5876-6-72

Published: 27 November 2008

Abstract

Background

Inside the spectrum of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, simple fatty liver is generally thought of as being "non progressive", differently from non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, which increases in severity due to the presence of apoptosis/inflammation and fibrosis. The "benignity" of fatty liver is widely accepted but conceptually difficult to maintain because the mechanisms underlying this entity are the same ones that determine the more severe form.

Findings provide evidence that iron overload is associated with increased liver damage and collagen deposition. Transforming growth factor-beta1 released by hepatic stellate cells during chronic liver injury plays a critical role in liver apoptosis and fibrogenesis.

Objective

To verify whether both the forms of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease were really dissimilar, evaluating the serum profile of two key parameters, indexes of severity.

Methods

A total of 123 patients (57 females) participated, forming three groups: forty five patients with fatty liver, 42 patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and 36 with chronic hepatitis C. All had a biopsy-proven diagnosis.

Measurements

Serum concentrations of transforming growth factor-beta1 and ferritin.

Results

High concentrations of transforming growth factor-beta1 were noticed in patients suffering from both fatty liver and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, 129.1 (45.4) versus 116.8 (42.2) ng/mL, P = 0.2; they were significantly superior to those of chronic hepatitis C patients 87.5 (39.5) ng/mL, P < 0.001. Ferritin levels were on average above normal values and similar in the three groups (P = 0.9), also when adjusted for gender (P = 0.5) and age (P = 0.3).

Conclusion

No difference between serum concentrations of transforming growth factor-beta1 and ferritin in fatty liver and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis suggests that these forms share more common aspects, regarding their progression, than previously thought.