Dr. Michael Karin gives talk for NIEHS Distinguished Lecture Series

Posted on June 1, 2018 by MFeiock


Dr. Michael Karin gives talk for NIEHS Distinguished Lecture Series

As part of the NIEHS Distinguished Lecture Series, Dr. Michael Karin (Project Leader, Project 1) gave a talk titled: "Metabolic and Immune Control of Liver Tumorigenesis", in which he discussed the sequence of pathological changes in the liver that eventually lead to liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the most common type of primary liver cancer and occurs most often in people with chronic liver diseases, such as cirrhosis caused by hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection.

In his May 15 presentation, Karin discussed several causes of liver cancer, such as viruses, environmental chemicals, and alcohol.  His research involves hepatitis or liver inflammation associated with energy-rich foods. People who eat a high-fat diet increase their chances of undergoing a series of health challenges that compromise their liver. It starts out with increased lipids in the liver, and progresses to steatosis or fatty liver. Continuing a junk food existence brings the next stage, which is fatty liver with inflammation and scarring, called cirrhosis. Which can lead to liver cancer.

The Karin group is interested in nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), one of the types of fatty liver which occurs when fat is deposited (steatosis) in the liver due to causes other than excessive alcohol use. NASH is the most extreme form of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD, which affects one-third of U.S. adults, starts as simple fatty liver, but 10-15 percent of patients will develop NASH due to secondary factors.  NAFLD is becoming more prevalent, particularly in Western countries as obesity rates rise in all age groups. Experts predict that this diagnosis will become the leading cause of liver transplantation.

"The factors that control the switch from simple fatty liver to NASH are not clear," Karin said, "but some speculate that it is associated with stress in a part of the cell called the endoplasmic reticulum [ER]."  The ER is a network of tubules in plant and animal cells that produce lipid and proteins. Karin and his colleagues decided to test the hypothesis by using mice that are more likely to develop ER stress in the liver.

Dr. Karin's presenation is further featured in the June 2018, NIEHS Environmental Factor Newsletter

* Photo courtesy: NIEHS Superfund Research Program, 2018

For more information on Dr. Karin, please visit his Project 1 of our Superfund Research Center,
or visit his UCSD Profile



UCSD Superfund Research Center
University of California, San Diego
Pharmacology Department
9500 Gilman Drive, Mail Code 0722
La Jolla, CA 92093-0722