Today (12th June 2018) is the first International NASH Day – a day to help raise awareness of this silent epidemic which currently has no approved treatment. We’re working on a project which we hope will change this – but more about that later.
First, some facts about NASH. 25% of the world’s population has non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is the most severe form. It’s a disease which is strongly linked to modern unhealthy and inactive lifestyles – 25-30% of obese people have NASH.
Chronic liver disease (increasingly due to NAFLD) is the third most common cause of premature death in the UK. By 2020, it’s expected that NASH will be the leading condition for liver transplants. Early recognition of the disease and effective treatment is urgently required to reduce deaths.
This disease has an economic burden too – in Germany, France, Italy, and the UK combined, there are around 52 million people with NAFLD, with an annual cost of €35 billion.
So, what can be done? I’m currently the chief investigator of a team, managed by the Stratified Medicine Scotland Innovation Centre and led by industry partners Eagle Genomics, who are developing a ground-breaking project which could help develop new tests and treatments for patients with NASH. The team was awarded a £1.7M collaborative grant from Innovate UK (the UK’s innovation agency) earlier this year to develop a Data Commons, which will be the first in the world for NASH.
A Data Commons brings together data, storage and computing systems, and is a commonly used tool for analysing and sharing data to create a resource for patients, charities, clinicians and the research community.
As more health data is added, our NASH Data Commons will evolve into a smarter, more comprehensive knowledge system that will be used to make new discoveries to understand and treat this disease more effectively. It will help us to develop and validate new tests for NASH, and to identify patients who will benefit most from new therapies.
The project will also involve partners at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, NHS Scotland and Glasgow and Edinburgh’s MRC Molecular Pathology Nodes.
Watch this space to find out more about this pioneering project as it progresses.
By Professor Jonathan Fallowfield, Senior Clinical Research Fellow/Principal Investigator, MRC Centre for Inflammation Research at the University of Edinburgh (SteatoSITE Clinical Lead)