A genetic variant known to be associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is also associated with alcoholic liver disease, according to a study published online in this week's Nature Genetics.
Liver cirrhosis ― scarring of liver ― causes approximately 27,000 deaths each year in the United States. Approximately half of these deaths are alcohol related, although only 10-15% of alcoholics develop cirrhosis. Previously, a genetic variant in the gene PNPLA3 was shown to be associated with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, a fatty inflammation of the liver that is not related to alcohol use.
David Hinds and colleagues show that variation in PNPLA3 is also associated with clinically evident liver disease in individuals with mixed European and Native American ancestry from Mexico City that have a history of substantial alcohol abuse. This genetic variant may help identify individuals of a similar genetic background who have an increased risk of liver disease.