Improving liver health in teens

Justin RyderNon-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), caused by the buildup of excess fat in the liver, is the most common pediatric liver disease, affecting one in 10 children and adolescents. Although symptoms vary from person to person, those with NAFLD are more likely to experience liver scarring over time, and some may even develop liver cancer or liver failure.

There is currently no treatment for NAFLD. That’s why with Masonic support, Justin Ryder, Ph.D. part of the U’s pediatrics faculty, is launching three clinical trials to find therapies that work.

Because NAFLD is exacerbated by obesity, Ryder is focusing these studies on obese teens. He is exploring everything from the effectiveness of a type 2 diabetes drug to new dietary supplements to the role of meal replacements in improving liver health. 

Ryder is also working with colleagues at the U to better understand childhood risk factors for adults who develop NAFLD and type 2 diabetes. So far, they have recruited and assessed 50 adults from a group of nearly 600 children they have been following from early adolescence to adulthood. If successful, this work could identify targets for the early prevention of many chronic diseases.

“I am very grateful for Masonic support. It’s always a great feeling to be able to pursue your own ideas, which you hope will advance science and improve the health of children, without having to worry too much about how to support the idea.”

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