THURSDAY, Dec. 17 (HealthDay News) -- A protein switch called TAK1 helps prevent liver damage, including inflammation, fibrosis and cancer, according to a team of scientists from the United States and Japan.
Learning more about how TAK1 works could improve understanding about the development of liver disease and cancer, and lead to new therapies, the researchers noted in their report, released online the week of Dec. 14 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"TAK1 appears to be a master regulator of liver function," study co-leader Dr. David A. Brenner, a professor of medicine and dean at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, said in a university news release.
It was already known that TAK1 activates two proteins that play a role in immunity, inflammation, programmed cell death and cancer. But it wasn't clear whether TAK1 promotes or prevents liver cancer.
To investigate this question, Brenner and colleagues created mice with liver cells that lacked TAK1 and found that the mice had a high rate of liver cell death. To compensate, the rodents' livers produced too many cells, resulting in liver damage that led to liver cancer, the researchers found.
The American Liver Foundation has more about liver cancer.
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