Cirrhosis DNA link breakthrough

International research led by GCU epidemiologist and biostatistician Dr Hamish Innes discovered a link between DNA and the risk of alcohol-related liver cirrhosis. 

The ground-breaking research investigated the link between DNA and the risk of cirrhosis. It was carried out in partnership with Dr Stephan Buch of University Hospital Dresden, and experts from 20 European institutions and published in the Gastroenterology Journal. It studied 35,839 heavy drinkers and more than 3000 patients attending specialist liver clinics across Europe. 

The two-year study identified two new genetic links which make some drinkers more susceptible to cirrhosis. Their discovery could help clinicians identify patients most at risk and possibly lead to the development of new drugs to prevent and treat the condition. 

Previously very little was known about the genetic factors impacting the development of alcohol-related cirrhosis, which is known as the silent killer because symptoms are not apparent until the liver has already suffered significant damage.  

Every day, more than 40 people die from liver disease in the UK, according to the British Liver Trust, and The Scottish Health Survey shows that a quarter of adults (24 per cent) are drinking at hazardous or harmful levels.

For a long time we’ve known that genetic factors play a role, but the genes involved were a mystery because of the need to analyse huge numbers. These genes will now be explored and will hopefully provide new biological clues that could herald breakthrough treatments and better prevention.

Dr Hamish Innes
School of Health and Life Sciences