After the gastrointestinal tract, the liver is the first organ to process bacteria-related metabolites, bile acids and hormones arising from the gut. Many preclinical and clinical models of various liver diseases have revealed a very tight connection to the gut microbiome--known as the gut-liver axis--and alterations in this microbiome are associated with such diseases as alcoholic hepatitis, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, primary sclerosing cholangitis, primary biliary cirrhosis, autoimmune hepatitis, cirrhosis and liver cancer.
The goal of this program is to understand microbial changes that are associated with early onset of liver disease, investigate the utility of the gut microbiome and its metabolites as biomarkers of disease progression and prognosis and examine how alterations in the gut microbiome can affect the development of liver disease. Ultimately, this work will guide the development of novel preventative or therapeutic interventions for liver diseases, which currently have few treatment options.
The program will include prospective human studies examining the phenotype and characteristics of the gut-liver axis in individuals with chronic liver disease and how they differ from healthy controls, including characterization of environmental factors such as diet, race, smoking and drinking habits. Other work will use animal and germ-free models of liver disease to investigate how these differences are causally linked to disease. These insights will be used to develop microbial-based biomarkers and novel therapies using animal models and human trials.
Tien S. Dong, MD, PhD
Director, Goodman-Luskin Microbiome Center Biorepository Core
Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine
Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Division of Digestive Diseases
David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA