The role of GLP-1 receptor agonist as a potential treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis
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Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common cause of liver dysfunction in the western world and one of the main contributors to cirrhosis and potentially liver cancer and liver failure. A variety of behaviors and other factors can predispose certain individuals to an increased risk of developing NAFLD and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). These factors include, but are not limited to, obesity, insulin resistance, hyperglycemia, and high levels of fat in the blood. The result is the accumulation of fat in hepatocytes that over time leads to inflammation and scarring of the liver and ultimately liver damage. At present, the mainstay of therapy remains weight loss through dietary modification and lifestyle change. Due to the lack of specific targeted pharmacotherapies, there is great interest from the scientific community to find a potential therapy that can provide benefit to the many patients in need. Some existing medications, including pioliglitazones and angiotensin receptor antagonists, may be repurposed to help treat this condition. Vitamin E may improve the histology in NASH, but safety issues limit its use. Other drugs, such as farnesoid X receptor agonist, obeticholic acid, are also in clinical trials with great hope for the future. However, as the cause of NAFLD and thereby NASH is poorly understood, there is a need for further research in the field to better understand the pathophysiology of the disease and the potential for pharmacotherapy for treatment of the disease. There has, however, been evidence that the antidiabetic drug class known as glucagon-like receptor agonists (GLP-1 RAs) has been shown to reduce liver damage in patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Liraglutide, currently a drug for type 2 diabetes and obesity, has been shown to provide great benefit in type 2 diabetes and obesity and after reviewing multiple studies, seems to provide a potential treatment also for patients with NAFLD and NASH. However, more research needs to be done to confirm this hypothesis. Its more potent version, called semaglutide, is currently in phase 2 clinical trials and provides great hope in potentially further reducing liver damage. This class of drugs provides a huge opportunity to address an unmet clinical need that could benefit millions of patients worldwide. .