Fatty liver disease study underway in SA

Researchers looking for patients to study hidden liver disease

SAN ANTONIO – Because it's becoming something of an epidemic, fatty liver disease is finally getting some deserved attention, with drug companies and the Food and Drug Administration scrambling to find treatments.

Douglas Denham, medical director at clinical trials of texas san antonio, describes in detail what it does to the body. 

"You don't feel bad, you don't hurt until it's too late," Denham said.

Fatty liver disease is usually hidden amid health issues such as obesity, diabetes, alcohol abuse and other  conditions that affect the liver.

"It's a gradual progression, so we go from some mild symptoms, like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, to more of an accumulation of fat in the liver tissue. Then you get more damage to the liver cells," Denham said.  

Fatty liver disease eventually leads to cirrhosis of the liver, cancer and ultimately death.

Leticia Ortej is someone who was informed by her doctor that she had it.  

"I had no idea what it was, if there was any treatment.  We really never really discussed it further,"  she said. 

That's because there's no real treatment or cure. Until recently, no drug companies were even looking at trying to cure the disease.

The number of people contracting it is growing, and while no one can predict whether a person will develop fatty liver disease, there is a gene identified for it that a person can inherit. 

Thirty-five percent of Anglos have the gene, as do 45 percent of African-Americans and Hispanics, which is why San Antonio is a prime location for Clinical Trials of Texas to try to tackle the mystery.

"We are looking at folks (who) have prediabetes or metabolic syndrome.  They've basically been to the doctor and the doctor said, 'You know, your blood sugars are a little high, you're heavier than you should be, you're not diabetic, but you're trending toward that way,'" Denham said.

To sign up for consideration to be in the clinical trial, call 210-949-0122 or register online at saresearch.com


About the Author:

Ursula Pari has been a staple of television news in Texas at KSAT 12 News since 1996 and a veteran of broadcast journalism for more than 30 years.