Hepatology, the official journal of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD), published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., is available online via Wiley InterScience (http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/hepatology).
Liver biopsy is currently the optimal way to determine the actual progression of liver disease, however, it is an invasive procedure with a risk of complications. The current non-invasive method of assessing liver damage involves measuring serum aminotransferase levels. Unfortunately, many patients with HCV infection who have chronic liver damage exhibit persistently normal aminotransferase levels.
In search of a more accurate non-invasive way to assess early liver damage, researchers led by Klaus Schulze-Osthoff and Heike Bantel of the University of Dusseldorf and Hannover Medical School investigated caspase activity levels in the sera of HCV patients, since recent studies have suggested that caspase activation is involved in very early liver damage. Caspases are believed to mediate the key changes surrounding the death of liver cells.
To explore the relationship between sera caspase levels, sera aminotransferase levels, and actual liver damage, the researchers obtained sera from 59 randomly selected patients with chronic HCV infection. They measured aminotransferase levels and found that twenty-seven percent of the patients were in the normal range. The researchers then examined the sera of the 59 patients, as well as that of seven healthy controls, to detect levels of a caspase-generated neopeptide of CK-18.