When a Liver Mutation is a Good Thing

Researchers at the Children’s Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern have found that not all liver mutations are created equal. A liver mutation was previously thought to be an indicator of cancer or another disfunction, but researchers using gene sequencing have found that some adult liver mutations promote regeneration after liver damage.

“Mutations that arise in normal cells are most often viewed through the lens of cancer. While certain mutations can represent steps toward the development of cancer, other mutations may actually promote tissue healing without causing cancer,” said Dr. Hao Zhu, an Associate Professor at CRI and of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at UT Southwestern, via release. Zhu is an  author of the liver study published in Cell.

Researchers developed techniques to identify mutated genes in Parkland patients with chronic liver disease, and then tested mouse livers to see how similar mutations impacted liver function. Researchers found that some mutations positively impacted liver regeneration despite previous studies that show that liver damage is a cause of cancer.

For patients with chronic liver disease, treatment is limited because liver cancer is so common. Differentiating between helpful and harmful liver mutations will give guidance about how to treat patients and avoid causing liver cancer.

“Mutations that arise in normal cells are most often viewed through the lens of cancer. While certain mutations can represent steps toward the development of cancer, other mutations may actually promote tissue healing without causing cancer,” said Dr. Hao Zhu, an Associate Professor at CRI and of Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at UT Southwestern, via release. Zhu is an author of the liver study published in Cell.

Co-authors from UT Southwestern Medical Center included Dr. Xin Luo, Data Scientist; Dr. Purva Gopal, Assistant Professor, Pathology; Lin Li, Senior Research Scientist, CRI; Mobolaji Odewole, Research Study Coordinator, Internal Medicine; Veronica Renteria, Research Study Coordinator, Internal Medicine; Dr. Sam Wang, Assistant Professor, Surgery; Mahsa Sorouri, Graduate Student; Dr. Justin Parekh, Assistant Professor, Surgery; and Dr. Malcolm MacConmara, Assistant Professor, Surgery. Dr. Singal holds the David Bruton, Jr. Professorship in Clinical Cancer Research and is a Dedman Family Scholar in Clinical Care.