Liver damage in hepatitis C patients could be treated with warfarin, says study

Jul 31, 2008

The drug warfarin may help prevent liver failure in thousands of people with Hepatitis C, according to new research.

In a study published tomorrow (1 August) in the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, researchers show that warfarin reduces the scarring on the liver caused by Hepatitis C. This scarring, or fibrosis, replaces normal liver cells and can lead to cirrhosis of the liver and ultimately liver failure.

Following the new findings in mouse models, the Imperial College London researchers are now embarking on a clinical trial of warfarin as a treatment for people with Hepatitis C, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC).

There are an estimated 300,000 people in the UK with chronic Hepatitis C. The disease progresses much more quickly in some patients than in others and around one in five of those infected will develop cirrhosis.

Treatment to clear the infection is currently effective in only around 50 percent of patients and can have considerable unpleasant side effects such as fatigue, nausea and depression. If this treatment fails, there are no currently effective therapies to slow the progression of fibrosis.

The new research looks at how warfarin affects the progression of fibrosis in mice with chronic liver injury. Warfarin is already used to prevent and treat blood clots in people with artificial heart valves, deep vein thrombosis, and a host of other conditions.

A previous study by the same researchers demonstrated that in Hepatitis C, scarring of the liver accelerates in those patients who are prone to form blood clots. This led the researchers to believe that warfarin's anti-clotting properties might enable the drug to fight the disease.

The new study showed that treatment with warfarin significantly reduces the progression of fibrosis in normal mice with chronic liver injury. It also shows that warfarin reduces the progression of fibrosis in mice with chronic liver injury and a genetic mutation known as Factor V Leiden (FVL), which causes fibrosis to progress at a much faster rate than usual because it amplifies the body's clotting mechanisms.

Professor Mark Thursz, one of the authors of the study from the Division of Medicine at Imperial College London, said: "At the moment there are a great many people with Hepatitis C who have no treatment options left and it would transform their lives if we could prevent them from developing liver failure. We are looking forward to seeing the results of our upcoming trial in humans now that we've had such promising results in the trial in mice."

Dr Quentin Anstee, an MRC Clinical Research Fellow and the corresponding author of the study from Imperial College London, added: "If we have positive results from the new trial, we will have a potential treatment that is already available and very cheap, and which should be safe enough for people to take. If we are successful in Hepatitis C patients, we are hopeful that such treatment might benefit people with liver damage from other causes, and this is something we would be keen to study further."

The researchers are recruiting 90 patients for the new trial who have undergone a liver transplant as a result of liver failure caused by hepatitis C. A third of such patients progress very rapidly to fibrosis following transplantation.

The researchers hope that treating these patients with warfarin will prevent this liver damage and improve their prognosis. Transplant patients have a liver biopsy every year following transplantation to assess their progress, and the researchers will analyse data from this biopsy to establish the effectiveness of the warfarin treatment. The two-year trial will take place across five centres including Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which has integrated with Imperial College London to form the UK's first Academic Health Science Centre.

The trial is taking place in transplant patients because the researchers estimate that it would take 10-15 years to conduct a trial in patients in whom the disease was progressing at a normal rate.

Source: Imperial College London

Explore further: Blood vessel calcification may put kidney stone formers at increased risk of heart disease

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Warm ocean melting East Antarctica's largest glacier

12 minutes ago

The largest glacier in East Antarctica, containing ice equivalent to a six-metre (20-foot) rise in global sea levels, is melting due to warm ocean water, Australian scientists said on Monday.

British lawmakers demand freeze on fracking

12 minutes ago

A committee of British lawmakers demanded a national moratorium on fracking due to environmental concerns on Monday, ahead of a crucial vote intended to boost the shale gas industry.

China's online population nears 650 million

13 minutes ago

The number of Internet users in China has risen to nearly 650 million, authorities said over the weekend, as the world's largest online population continues to rise.

Obama recommends extended wilderness zone in Alaska

11 hours ago

US President Barack Obama said Sunday he would recommend a large swath of Alaska be designated as wilderness, the highest level of federal protection, in a move likely to anger oil proponents.

NASA craft set to beam home close-ups of Pluto

11 hours ago

Nine years after leaving Earth, the New Horizons spacecraft is at last drawing close to Pluto and on Sunday was expected to start shooting photographs of the dwarf planet.

Recommended for you

Kidney-brain connection may help drive chronic kidney disease

32 minutes ago

In addition to affecting blood pressure, high-salt intake can promote kidney function decline in patients with chronic kidney disease. A study appearing in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (J ...

Flu's grip on U.S. starting to weaken: CDC

1 hour ago

(HealthDay)—After a rough start to the flu season, the number of infections seems to have peaked and is even starting to decline in many parts of the nation, federal health officials reported Thursday.

Litchi fruit suspected in mystery illness in India

1 hour ago

A mysterious and sometimes fatal brain disease that has afflicted children in northeastern India for years could be linked to a toxic substance in litchi fruits, US researchers said Thursday.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.