Scientists monitor multiple molecular markers for research and diagnosis

Liver disease at early stages very often doesn’t give any pain or some special symptoms for patient. However at advanced stages blood values responsible for liver health are changed drastically. The pain can appear. As well as a change of the color of the skin, sclera, urine and feces.

  • How to catch the liver disease at early stages? How to start therapy as early as possible. Which preventive action can be undertaken? Answers to these questions come from direct observations of patient’s livers at advanced stages of liver disease and from studies of laboratory animals at early and advanced stages.
  • Direct observations of the patient’s livers occur via biopsy. The part (very small) of liver is taken in the hospital, prepared in a special manner, stained for something (molecular markers) and visualized with a respective microscope. A detection of “good” healthy markers is a good sign, whereas a detection of “bad” markers or absence of “good” markers is a bad sign. Analysis of these observations leads to a detailed diagnosis, to a possible prognosis of disease progression and outcome, and to a proper selection of therapy. Biopsy is usually performed at advanced stages of liver disease. At early stages doctors prefer to avoid it because it is kind of operation (invasive) and can be harmful for the patient. Therefore they prefer non-invasive diagnosis and prognosis methods.
  • The same markers can be observed in the laboratory by scientists, which work with animals. In contrast to the human patients, here the livers for direct analysis can be taken at healthy state and at all stages of liver disease. The liver is usually taken not by biopsy (like in patients), but rather by whole liver removal after the animal has been sanctified. The removed (aserved) liver is, similarly as described above, prepared in a special manner, stained for specific markers and visualized with microscope. Whole panel of markers detected in the liver over time of disease progression and compared to the healthy control livers provides a very powerful tool for research of disease onset, progression and outcome, as well as for effectiveness of different kinds of applied therapy.
  • In the liver in different types of cells, different markers are observed. A presence or an absence, of the localization and staining appearance, of an amount of stained marker is usually monitored.
  • Here is a panel of molecular markers in the liver, which are normally inspected. In the adult healthy hepatocytes, the molecular markers are albumin, cytokeratins 8 and 18. In the bile ducts (cholangiocytes), the markers are cytokeratins 7 and 19, OV-6 and glutathione-S-transpeptidase. In the fetal hepatoblasts, which are normally found in fetals and in cancers, the markers are α-fetaprotein and delta-like protein. In the hematopoietic stem cells, the markers are Thy -1, Sca-1, c-kit, CD34 and CD133.
  • Author of text and illustration: Iryna Ilkavets
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