This simple blood test could detect liver injury earlier

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In a new study, researchers found nanoparticles could play a key role in a simple blood test to detect liver damage earlier than current methods.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Texas at Dallas.

The gold standard for monitoring and diagnosing the liver disease is a liver biopsy, which is invasive and can be painful or cause complications.

In a clinical setting, physicians also can monitor liver function non-invasively with tests that record levels of certain enzymes and proteins in the blood.

But conventional blood biomarkers are released when hepatocytes die—the damage has already been done.

Another drawback to these tests is that other factors, such as inflammation, can cause these biomarkers to be abnormally high.

Because of this, in many cases, clinicians may not intervene right away. That creates a problem because it can delay the detection and treatment of the liver injury.

In the study, the team focused on a chemical called glutathione, which is the master antioxidant produced by the liver.

The constant release, or efflux, of glutathione (an antioxidant), helps maintain the function of a healthy liver. When the liver is damaged, however, glutathione production is blocked.

The researchers combined their expertise with gold nanoparticles with the behavior of glutathione to develop their nanoprobe for acute liver injury, which they then tested in mice.

The researchers injected conjugated gold nanoparticles into mice that had a drug-induced liver injury.

They found the gold nanoparticles returned to the bloodstream fairly quickly. Within about half an hour, they were able to detect glutathione depletion in a small amount of blood.

The particle was able to detect APAP overdose with 93% accuracy, which is very high. And it’s at a stage that is much earlier than traditional biomarkers can detect.

While the current study was focused on drug-induced, acute liver injury, the team says future work will help detect chronic liver injury as well.

One author of the study is chemist Dr. Jie Zheng. The study is published in Science Advances.

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