Editors' ChoicePhysiology

Combating Liver Disease

Science's STKE  11 Feb 2003:
Vol. 2003, Issue 169, pp. tw66-TW66
DOI: 10.1126/stke.2003.169.tw66

Protecting the liver, either naturally or therapeutically, is the focus of two reports. Endothelial cells (ECs) were once thought to function primarily in the delivery of nutrients and oxygen to tissues, but recently ECs were shown also to secrete factors that induce organ development in vertebrate embryos before the establishment of blood flow. Studying mouse models, LeCouter et al. (see the Perspective by Davidson and Zon) now show that ECs have a protective function in the adult liver that is independent of their role in new blood vessel growth. In response to activation of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-1 (VEGFR-1), ECs were shown to secrete several proteins, including hepatocyte growth factor, that stimulate hepatocyte proliferation and reduce tissue damage in a liver injury model. In the search for effective drugs in treating chronic cases of hepatitis B virus, it is important to find drug candidates that target novel aspects of virus physiology. Deres et al. describe a compound, Bay 41-4109, that appears to act by inhibiting the maturation of the viral nucleocapsids.

J. LeCouter, D. R. Moritz, B. Li, G. L. Phillips, X. H. Liang, H.-P. Gerber, K. J. Hillan, N. Ferrara, Angiogenesis-independent endothelial protection of liver: Role of VEGFR-1. Science 299, 890-893 (2003). [Abstract] [Full Text]

A. J. Davidson, L. I. Zon, Love, honor, and protect (your liver). Science 299, 835-837 (2003). [Summary] [Full Text]

K. Deres, C. H. Schröder, A. Paessens, S. Goldmann, H. J. Hacker, O. Weber, T. Krämer, U. Niewöhner, U. Pleiss, J. Stoltefuss, E. Graef, D. Koletzki, R. N. A. Masantschek, A. Reimann, R. Jaeger, R. Groß, B. Beckermann, K.-H. Schlemmer, D. Haebich, H. Rübsamen-Waigmann, Inhibition of hepatitis B virus replication by drug-induced depletion of nucleocapsids. Science 299, 893-896 (2003). [Abstract] [Full Text]