Tesamorelin Reverses Signs of Liver Disease in People Living with HIV
The injectable drug Tesamorelin an HGH release has been demonstrated by researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to be helpful for people living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) who suffer from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
In a study done in collaboration with researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, NIH scientists found that the injectable hormone helped to lower liver fat and avert liver fibrosis, or scarring.
The research was organized by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the National Cancer Institute, two of the institutes making up the NIH. Findings from it appeared in The Lancet HIV.
Many people who have HIV also suffer from NAFLD, a condition that develops as a result of fat accumulation in the liver. Alcohol consumption is not the cause of this type of liver disease. Estimates have it that up to 1 in every 4 HIV patients in developed nations has NAFLD.
The disorder can lead to potentially life-threatening liver issues, including liver damage, cirrhosis, and cancer. There are currently no effective therapies for it.
“Many people living with HIV have overcome significant obstacles to live longer and healthier lives, though many still experience liver disease,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director at NIAID. “It is encouraging that tesamorelin, a drug already approved to treat other complications of HIV, may be effective in addressing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.”
Boosting liver health
In the study, scientists set out to investigate whether the injectable hormone in focus could reduce liver fat in people having both HIV and NAFLD. Of the participants enlisted, around 43 percent had at least mild liver fibrosis. A severe form of NAFLD known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) was observed in 33 percent of the subjects.
The researchers randomly placed the participants in groups to receive 2mg tesamorelin or placebo injections daily. They also trained the subjects on how to self-administer the daily injections and provided them with nutritional counseling.
Those participants who got daily tesamorelin showed a significant reduction in hepatic fat fraction (HFF) after one year of treatment. This was an indication of improved liver health. The HFF refers to the ratio of fat to other liver tissue, with a healthy range being less than five percent.
Scientists observed that 35% of study participants who got hormone injections attained a healthy HFF range. On the other hand, just about four percent of the placebo group achieved a normal HFF with nutritional counseling alone.
The absolute difference in reduction in HFF was 4.1 percent.
Only two participants in the tesamorelin group experienced onset or worsening of liver fibrosis, compared to nine in the placebo group.
Also, levels of alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and some other blood markers linked to inflammation and liver damage reduced more among those using tesamorelin, compared to the placebo group. The reduction was more significant for those who had high levels of these blood markers at the start of the study.
Treating HIV patients with tesamorelin
Type 2 diabetes and obesity increase the risk of people living with HIV also developing NAFLD. Yet, some medications that these patients take for treating HIV, including the virus itself, are linked to abdominal fat gain and, possibly, to fat buildup in the liver.
Tesamorelin, sold under the brand name Egrifta, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2010. It was intended for getting rid of excess fat in the abdominal region of HIV patients with lipodystrophy.
Based on their findings, the researchers proposed the use of the injectable drug for treating NAFLD in people living with HIV. No efficacious treatment is available for the condition yet.
“Because tesamorelin proved effective in treating abdominal fat build-up in the abdomens of people in the context of HIV and related medication use,” said Dr. Steven K. Grinspoon, M.D., a lead investigator in the study, “we hypothesized that the drug might also reduce fat that accrues in the liver and causes damage in a similar population.”
The researchers revealed that tesamorelin was well-tolerated by the subjects. They called for further research to establish if the injectable hormone could protect people who do not have HIV against severe liver disease.