Manipulating serotonin can promote healthy repair in chronic liver disease

November 28, 2011

(Medical Xpress) -- Publishing in the leading medical journal Nature Medicine, a team led by Newcastle University academics have identified serotonin receptors which can be targeted with drugs to enhance the natural healing properties of the liver.

In liver disease, extent of depends on the balance between the generation of and the regeneration of new . In a significant minority of people who get injury to their organs instead of repairing them, they form scars. This can progress to chronic liver disease and cirrhosis where the scarring is so extensive the liver is unable to clean blood or produce vital hormones and clotting factors. Liver scars also provide an ideal environment for the development of cancers.

Publishing in Nature Medicine and showcased in Nature Research Highlights, the paper describes how working in mouse models the team were able to tip this balance to favour healthy and block scarring by manipulating the actions of serotonin - the “happy” drug.

Normally when a liver is injured – by a virus such as Hepatitis C or B, by alcohol, environmental factors or by a metabolic or autoimmune condition – specialised blood cells known as platelets make general repairs and secrete serotonin.

However, the team found that when scar-forming cells - Hepatic stellate cells (HSC) – are present they are instructed by the serotonin to make more scar tissue and switch off the healthy regeneration.
Identifying the receptor called 5-HT2B through which serotonin instructs the scar forming cells to switch off regeneration, they found that this resulted in less scarring and more regeneration.

Of the work funded by the Medical Research Council and the Wellcome Trust, lead author, Professor Derek Mann said; “These are promising results in mouse models of liver disease and suggest that chemicals targeting 5-HT2B , which are currently in clinical trials for mood disorders and pulmonary hypertension might also have an application in the treatment of .”

The group believe the mechanism may also be found in other organs and offers an exciting opportunity for study in the future.

More information: Stimulating healthy tissues regeneration by targeting the 5-HT2B receptor in chronic liver disease, Derek A Mann et al. Nature Medicine.10.1038/10.1038/nm.2490

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New 'Tissue Velcro' could help repair damaged hearts

August 28, 2015

Engineers at the University of Toronto just made assembling functional heart tissue as easy as fastening your shoes. The team has created a biocompatible scaffold that allows sheets of beating heart cells to snap together ...

Fertilization discovery: Do sperm wield tiny harpoons?

August 26, 2015

Could the sperm harpoon the egg to facilitate fertilization? That's the intriguing possibility raised by the University of Virginia School of Medicine's discovery that a protein within the head of the sperm forms spiky filaments, ...

Research identifies protein that regulates body clock

August 26, 2015

New research into circadian rhythms by researchers at the University of Toronto Mississauga shows that the GRK2 protein plays a major role in regulating the body's internal clock and points the way to remedies for jet lag ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ziphead
not rated yet Nov 28, 2011
Should people on SSRI with liver condition worry? The thing is, if you prevent reuptake, you prevent it everywhere.

And we do know that majority of serotonin is produced in GI tract (not CNS) and subsequently deactivated in liver as it passes through.

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.