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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

South Carolina: Research Finds Environmental Toxin Microcystin Worsens Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

A recent study led by researchers from the Center for Oceans and Human Health and Climate Change Interactions, which is based in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health, has found that microcystin, an environmental toxin produced by harmful algal blooms, exacerbates the pathology of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. The research was led by associate professor Dr. Saurabh Chatterjee and published in the American Journal of Physiology: Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology.

“Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, or NAFLD, is an emerging global pandemic,” Dr. Chatterjee says.  “Though significant progress has been made in unraveling the pathophysiology of the disease, the role of protein phosphatase 2A and its subsequent inhibition by environmental and genetic factors in NAFLD pathophysiology remains unclear.”

With this study, the researchers examined whether and how this protein leads to inflammation and fibrogenesis in the liver. They discovered that microcystin, a potent protein phosphatase 2A inhibitor that is becoming more ubiquitous due to increasing numbers of harmful algal blooms, led to effects such as increased immunoreactivity, the release of proinflammatory cytokines and stellate cell activation.

These findings are consistent with other recent research published by Dr. Chatterjee and his team on the effects of microcystin on the gastrointestinal tract, which was published in Scientific Reports. Taken together, these studies demonstrate some of the negative health effects that can result from increasing levels of microtoxin due to factors such as climate change.

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