Herbal Formula Shows Promise Against Liver Scarring in Mice

Jim Crocker
15th March, 2024

Herbal Formula Shows Promise Against Liver Scarring in Mice

Image Source: Olavi Anttila (photographer)

Key Findings

  • In a study from Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, YQJPF improved liver function and reduced fibrosis in mice
  • YQJPF decreased inflammation by lowering harmful cytokines and oxidative stress in the liver
  • The herbal formula also altered immune cells towards healing and regulated gut bacteria linked to liver health
Liver fibrosis, a condition characterized by the accumulation of scar tissue in the liver, can lead to liver failure if not treated. While there is no definitive cure, researchers have been exploring various treatments to halt or even reverse this fibrotic process. A recent study from the Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine investigated the effects of a traditional herbal medicine known as Yi-Qi-Jian-Pi Formula (YQJPF) on liver fibrosis in mice[1]. This study builds on previous findings that systemic inflammation and certain inflammatory cytokines are key drivers of liver fibrosis[2][3]. Inflammatory cytokines like IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α have been shown to contribute to the development and progression of liver diseases, including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and its more severe form, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)[3]. Additionally, the activation of myofibroblasts and their secretion of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins are known to play a central role in the formation of liver scar tissue[4]. The researchers at Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine aimed to determine whether YQJPF could mitigate the effects of hepatic fibrosis. They induced fibrosis in mice using carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) and then administered varying doses of YQJPF. They compared these groups to a control group and a group treated with silymarin, a known liver-protective compound. The results were promising: YQJPF improved liver function, increased body weight, and reduced the histological signs of fibrosis. It also decreased the levels of pro-inflammatory factors IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α, which are the same cytokines previously identified as risk factors for liver disease progression[3]. This suggests that YQJPF may exert its beneficial effects by dampening the inflammatory response. Furthermore, the study found that YQJPF reduced oxidative stress in the liver, as evidenced by decreased malondialdehyde levels and increased superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity. Oxidative stress is another contributing factor to liver fibrosis, and managing it is crucial for halting disease progression. In addition to these effects, YQJPF influenced the balance of macrophages in the liver. Macrophages are immune cells that can take on different roles: M1 macrophages are associated with inflammation, while M2 macrophages are linked to tissue repair. The high dose of YQJPF decreased the number of M1 macrophages and increased the number of M2 macrophages, potentially facilitating a more reparative environment in the liver. The study also delved into the molecular mechanisms behind the anti-fibrotic effects of YQJPF by examining its impact on the TGF-β/Smad3 signaling pathway. This pathway is known to be a key regulator of fibrosis, and the herbal formula appeared to inhibit it, which could explain its therapeutic effects. Lastly, the researchers used metagenomics and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to explore the changes in intestinal flora and metabolites in the mice. They discovered that YQJPF could regulate intestinal homeostasis, which is interesting given the growing evidence of the gut-liver axis's role in liver disease. They found a negative correlation between a specific bacterial species and a metabolite derived from licorice, which is a component of YQJPF, suggesting that the gut microbiome might influence how the body responds to the herbal treatment. In conclusion, the study from Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine provides evidence that YQJPF can reverse liver fibrosis through multiple mechanisms, including reducing inflammation, suppressing oxidative stress, modulating immune responses, and regulating gut microbiota. These findings are consistent with previous research that has highlighted the importance of systemic inflammation and ECM turnover in liver disease[2][3][4]. YQJPF could potentially be a valuable addition to the treatment options for liver fibrosis, offering hope for patients suffering from this chronic condition.



Main Study

1) Chinese herbal decoction, Yi-Qi-Jian-Pi formula exerts anti-hepatic fibrosis effects in mouse models of CCl4-induced liver fibrosis.

Published 15th March, 2024


Related Studies

2) Systemic inflammation is linked to liver fibrogenesis in patients with advanced chronic liver disease.


3) Association of Inflammatory Cytokines With Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease.


4) Recent Advancements in Antifibrotic Therapies for Regression of Liver Fibrosis.


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