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Scientific breakthrough: HKBU research team unveils deoxycholic acid’s role in alleviating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease


The human body is a complex, interconnected network of systems. Recent research led by HKBU researcher Professor Jia Wei, Acting Dean of the School of Chinese Medicine (SCM) and Director of the School’s Hong Kong Traditional Chinese Medicine Phenome Research Centre, has shed light on a novel mechanism within our body’s network that could have profound implications for the treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). The outcomes of this research endeavour have been formally documented in the esteemed international scientific journal, Cell Metabolism.

NAFLD is a prevalent health concern, characterised by excessive fat storage in the liver. Currently there are no (Western) therapeutic drugs approved for this disease. Professor Jia’s new research offers a promising potential pharmaceutical intervention – hyodeoxycholic acid (HDCA).

HDCA is a compound found naturally in our bodies, which plays a significant role in bile acid production and in the gut-liver metabolic axis. Professor Jia’s team found that individuals with NAFLD and type 2 diabetes have lower levels of HDCA compared to those without these conditions. This observation led the team to explore HDCA’s potential therapeutic role.

In a series of controlled experiments, HDCA was administered to mouse models with NAFLD. The results were encouraging: HDCA not only reduced fat accumulation and inflammation in the liver but also improved the population of beneficial gut bacteria. Interestingly, these effects were not due to direct action on liver cells, but rather through modulation of the gut-liver metabolic axis, demonstrating the critical role of gut health in liver disease.

This research is a significant stride forward in understanding the pathophysiology of NAFLD and offers a potential new avenue for therapeutic intervention. Professor Jia is presently organising a controlled clinical trial in mainland China to evaluate the safety and efficacy of HDCA for patients with fatty liver disease.

Professor Jia’s groundbreaking study underscores the crucial role of the gut-liver metabolic axis in disease management. HKBU School of Chinese Medicine celebrates each discovery as a step closer to new treatments, improved patient outcomes, and a deeper understanding of human biology.

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HDCA demonstrates therapeutic effects on NAFLD in multiple mouse models.


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Professor Jia Wei’s team unveils the role of deoxycholic acid in alleviating non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.