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Genetic variation increases risk of liver cirrhosis

Category: Liver Diseases

Caucasian alcoholics may benefit from liver testing. A new study has found that a genetic variation common to individuals of this ethnicity puts them at an elevated risk of developing alcohol-induced cirrhosis.

Typically, only 10 to 35 percent of alcoholics in the general population develop liver inflammation. Among these individuals, only about 20 percent develop full-blown cirrhosis. However, individuals with the particular genetic variation are at a much higher risk.

After studying the genome of more than 1,000 alcoholics, a team of researchers from Christian-Albrechts-Universität Kiel in Germany found that individuals with a variation on PNPLA3 gene were 25 to 50 percent more likely to develop cirrhosis.

"Our findings show PNPLA3 carriers represent a subpopulation of high-risk individuals susceptible to progression from clinically silent alcoholic liver disease to obvious cirrhosis," said Jochen Hampe, who led the study. "Carriers of this risk allele should be targeted for future pharmaceutical treatments and non-pharmacological interventions."

Given the fact that the variation is most prevalent in Caucasians, these individuals should be particularly careful about over-indulging on alcohol.

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