Part of our team will travel to Williamsburg, Virginia to attend the biennial ISHEN congress.
Many presentations will be offered by our team. Among these, 2 lectures will be given by Christopher on the pathogenesis of HE. Also, among our accepted abstracts, the one of Mariana was chosen to be an oral presentation.
Thank you to ISHEN for the travel grants of Mariana and Rafael.
Update : Congrats to Mariana for Best Oral Prize!
Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a neuropsychiatric syndrome observed in chronic liver disease (CLD/cirrhosis). With an increasing prevalence of obesity-induced cirrhosis and evidence linking blood-derived lipids to neurological impairment, we hypothesize that obesity increases the risk, severity and progression of HE. AIM: Investigate the synergistic effect of obesity and CLD on the development of neurological impairment in a novel rat model of cirrhosis and obesity. M&M: Animal model of CLD and HE: 5-week bile-duct ligation (BDL) rats and Sham-operated controls, were used. Groups: Obese-BDL and Obese-Sham received high-fat diet (HFD) for 25-days pre-BDL and high-carbohydrate diet (HCD) for 5-weeks post-BDL; Lean-BDL and Lean-Sham received regular-diet (RD) pre-BDL and HCD post-BDL. Body-weight and fat-mass (EchoMRI) were monitored pre-BDL as well as 3- and 5-weeks post-BDL. Behavior: Motor-coordination, motor skill-learning, and muscular-strength were assessed at 3- and 5-weeks post-BDL. Locomotion and anxiety were measured at 5-weeks. Plasma ammonia, liver enzymes, and lipids were measured at 3- and 5-weeks. RESULTS: Before BDL surgery, body-weight and fat-mass of rats on HFD increased compared to rats on RD. 3-week post-BDL, body-weight and fat-mass decreased in Lean-BDL and Obese-BDL vs respective Shams, while at 5-weeks this was only found in Lean-BDL. These parameters were higher in Obese-BDL vs Lean-BDL at 3- and 5-weeks. Plasma ammonia, bilirubin, albumin, ALT, AST, and ALP were impaired in Obese- and Lean-BDL vs respective Shams at 3- and 5-weeks. AST and ALP increased in Obese-BDL vs Lean-BDL at 5-weeks. Elevated HDL-cholesterol and decreased LDL-cholesterol were detected in Obese-BDL and Lean-BDL vs respective Shams at 3- and 5-weeks, while LDL-cholesterol was higher in Obese-BDL vs Lean-BDL at 5-weeks. Total-cholesterol increased in Obese-BDL vs all groups at 5-weeks. At 3 weeks; motor-coordination was reduced in Obese-BDL, but not in Lean-BDL vs respective Shams, while at 5-weeks, motor-coordination decreased in both Lean-BDL and Obese-BDL vs respective Shams, with worse performance in Obese-BDL vs Lean-BDL. At 3-weeks, skill-learning improved in all Shams and Lean-BDL, but not in Obese-BDL; at 5-weeks contrary to Sham-groups, both BDL groups did not improve performance. Muscle-strength decreased in Lean-BDL and Obese-BDL vs respective Shams at 3- and 5-weeks. Hypolocomotion and anxiogenic effects were detected in Obese-BDL, but not in Lean-BDL vs Shams at 5-weeks. CONCLUSION: HFD induces obesity pre-BDL which is maintained post-BDL with a HCD-diet which was accompanied with increase fat-mass and hyperlipidemia. Neurological decline in obese-cirrhotic rats developed earlier and was more severe versus Lean-BDL rats. Besides, some neurological impairments developed in Obese-BDL but not in Lean-BDL. These results suggest a synergistic effect, which accelerates/worsens the disease-associated abnormalities in CLD and HE.
Background: Hyperammonemia associated with chronic liver disease (CLD) is implicated in the pathogenesis of hepatic encephalopathy (HE). The gut is a major source of ammonia (NH3) production that contributes to systemic hyperammonemia in CLD and HE and remains the primary therapeutic target for lowering circulating NH3. As a therapeutic strategy, Escherichia coli Nissle 1917 bacterium (EcN), a well characterized probiotic, was genetically modified to consume and convert NH3 to arginine (SYNARG), and its administration to thioacetamide-treated mice resulted in a significant reduction of NH3 levels1. SYNARG was further modified to synthesize butyrate (SYNARG+BUT), a short-chain fatty acid with anti-inflammatory/anti-oxidant properties, and both strains were tested in an experimental model of cirrhosis and HE, the bile duct ligation (BDL). Methods: One week post surgery, BDL rats were gavaged with SYNARG, SYNARG+BUT (3x1011 CFU/day, BID) or vehicle until they were sacrificed at 3- or 5-weeks along with respective sham controls. Plasma NH3 and liver markers were measured at 3 and 5 weeks. Recognition-memory, motor-coordination, muscle-strength, locomotion and anxiety were assessed in the 5-week BDL groups. Results: BDL significantly increased NH3 over time, with levels of 109.1±9.2µM (Shams 56.7±3.5µM, p<0.001) and 150.2±25.6µM (Shams 58.3±3.0µM, p<0.001) at 3- and 5-weeks, respectively. In addition, plasma liver markers alanine-transaminase, aspartate-transaminase, bilirubin, and gamma-glutamyl transferase were significantly increased in BDL rats at both timepoints while albumin was significantly lowered. As compared to BDL-Veh rats, hyperammonemia was attenuated by SYNARG (103.9±12.3µM) and SYNARG+BUT (110.8±8.5µM) at 5, but not 3 weeks post-surgery, while liver fibrosis (hydroxyproline content) was attenuated at 3, but not 5 weeks post-surgery. None of the circulating liver markers were changed by the treatments at any timepoint. Motor-coordination, muscle-strength, locomotion and anxiety were affected in all BDL groups without protective effect of treatments. Short-term memory (STM) was impaired in BDL-Veh (p<0.001) and BDL-SYNARG (p<0.05) versus Shams, while STM was resolved in BDL-SYNARG+BUT (p<0.05 vs BDL-Veh). Long-term memory (LTM) was impaired in BDL-Veh vs Shams (p<0.05), but BDL-SYNARG and BDL-SYNARG+BUT were protected. Conclusion: EcN, engineered to consume NH3 in the gut and synthesize butyrate, is an effective approach to lower plasma NH3 in a model of cirrhosis and HE. Moreover, the attenuation of hyperammonemia in cirrhotic rats is associated with a protective effect on memory in this model. The therapeutic potential of these engineered EcN strains should be further evaluated in patients with CLD and HE.
Background The impact of sex differences on chronic liver disease (CLD) and hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is unknown. The majority of animals used in research are male since the main difficulty with using female animals is the potential impact of the estrous cycle, increasing intragroup variability. The bile duct ligated (BDL) rat is a well-characterized model of CLD and HE in males which has not been investigated in females. Therefore, we aimed to characterize a female BDL model of CLD and HE and compare to male BDL rats. Material and methods Female rats underwent either BDL (n=8) or Sham (n=8) surgery. After 5 weeks, we assessed estrous cycle phase (by cellular cytology), anxiety (open field test), motor incoordination (rota-rod test) and night-time activity. We also assessed body weight, body composition (MRI), gastrocnemius muscle weight/circumference, grip strength, and ammonia and liver enzymes in plasma. Results from female BDL rats were compared to historical laboratory data from male BDL rats. Results Female BDL rats had increased liver enzymes (ALP (P=0.001) and AST (P<0.0001) (but not ALT)), bilirubin (P<0.0001) and ammonia (p<0.001), and decreased albumin (P<0.0001) compared to female Shams. These results were comparable to male BDL rats except ALT and ammonia which were lower in females (p< 0.01). Female BDL rats did not differ in body weight, muscle circumference/weight and grip strength but had decreased fat mass (p<0.0001), increased lean mass (p<0.005) compared to female shams. Whereas, male BDL rats have decreased fat mass, muscle circumference/weight and grip strength. BDL in female rats induced a dysregulated estrous cycle compared to Sham (increased metestrus phase (p<0.01)). Similar to male BDL rats, female BDL rats had increased anxiety (p<0.005), motor incoordination (p<0.05), and decreased night activity (p<0.05) independent of the estrous cycle phase. Discussion We demonstrated BDL surgery in females leads to hepatic and neurological impairment comparable to male BDL rats (similar intra-group variability). Interestingly, female BDL rats developed unique features. Contrary to male BDL vs Shams, body weight and muscle mass does not differ between female BDL and Shams. Since muscle mass plays an important compensatory role in regulating ammonia levels, this could explain why the increase in blood ammonia levels in female BDL rats (vs. female Shams) was lower compared to male BDL. We expect that this model will provide new insights on the effect of sex differences on the pathogenesis of CLD and HE and help to personalize HE treatment.
Introduction: Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a neuropsychiatric syndrome, a major complication of chronic liver disease (CLD/cirrhosis). The primary cause of hospital admissions for cirrhotic patients is an overt episode of HE. Precipitating factors of HE frequently lead to an increase in blood ammonia. Patients who have experienced multiple episodes of HE are associated with persisting neurological complications post-liver transplantation. Currently, the impact of HE episodes on neurological integrity is unknown. We hypothesize that multiple episodes of HE will accelerate and/or intensify neurological deterioration. To date, an animal model of episodic HE is lacking. Therefore, our goal was to characterize an animal model of episodic HE (precipitated with ammonia) and to evaluate the impact of cumulative episodes on neurological status in cirrhotic rats. Material and Methods: Animal model of CLD and HE: 6-week bile-duct ligation (BDL) rats, and Sham-operated controls were used. BDL and Sham rats were divided in two groups, episodic and non-episodic. Injection (i.p) of ammonium acetate was used to induce episodes of overt HE (pre-coma; loss of righting reflex) every 4 days starting 3-weeks post-BDL surgery (total 5 episodes). Saline was injected as vehicle for non-episodic groups. Two days following the last HE episode, we assessed motor-coordination (RotaRod), anxiety (elevated plus maze, EPMT), as well as short-term and long-term memory (novel object recognition) in all groups. Upon sacrifice, plasma ammonia was measured. Results: The concentration of ammonia required to induce an episode of overt HE in BDL rats lessened with each subsequent episode, ranging from 7 to 4.5 mmol/kg. Short-term memory (p<0.05) and motor-coordination (p<0.05) were impaired in both non-episodic and episodic BDL groups compared to respective Sham-operated controls. Long-term memory impairment (p=0.06) and increased anxiety (+60.0%, p<0.05) were exclusively found in episodic BDL rats compared to non-episodic BDL rats. Moreover, there was an increase in blood ammonia (+30.4%, p=0.06) in episodic compared to non-episodic BDL rats, suggesting that although episodic-BDL rats recover from each HE episode, baseline (pre-episode) ammonia remain higher than non-episodic BDL rats. Conclusion: Cumulative HE episodes escalate neurological impairments in cirrhotic-BDL rats. Thus, this new episodic HE model represents a good approach to explore the pathological mechanism arising from multiple episodes, as well as further investigate whether higher hyperammonemia and/or increased brain sensitivity to ammonia is responsible for more complex neurological manifestations in episodic-BDL rats. Moreover, this model is an excellent platform to investigate novel therapies to prevent/treat episodic HE.
BACKGROUND: Muscle wasting (sarcopenia) and hepatic encephalopathy affect 30 to 70% of cirrhotic patients. The presence of sarcopenia may be associated with a worst prognosis and complications, including hepatic encephalopathy, in cirrhotic patients awaiting and after liver transplantation (LT). To this day, few studies have evaluated and followed muscle mass (in terms of quantity and quality) after LT. The goal of this study was to assess the association between the evolution of sarcopenia and the prognosis of cirrhotic patients, including hepatic encephalopathy and neurological complications, before and after LT. METHODS: In total, 94 cirrhotic patients who underwent LT at the Montreal University Hospital Center - Liver Unit were included. Sarcopenia was assessed at the third lumbar level vertebrae using a computed tomography scan (CT-scan). The diagnostic of sarcopenia was based on previously established sex-specific cut-off values of skeletal muscle index. Patients were classified into two groups: (1) persistent or newly developed sarcopenia after LT (Sarc+); (2) resolved sarcopenia or absence of sarcopenia before and after LT (Sarc-). Muscle quality (myosteatosis) was assessed by calculating intramuscular adipose tissue content. The prognostic factors were collected 6 months before and during 1 year after LT through medical records and included the number of complications, the presence of hepatic encephalopathy and the episodes of infections, the length of stay, and the frequency of readmissions. RESULTS: Sarcopenia persisted or was newly developed (Sarc+) in 62% of the patients (n = 58). It remained absent or was resolved after LT in 38% of the patients (n = 35). Muscle quality was significantly decreased post-LT (P = 0.034). The group Sarc+ experienced more complications pre-LT (P = 0.012) and post-LT (P < 0.001), infections post-LT (P = 0.006) and readmissions (P = 0.048) compared to the group Sarc-. The length of stay was longer for the group Sarc+ as opposed to the group Sarc- (P < 0.001). Hepatic encephalopathy was present in 83% of patients pre-LT whereas 17% experienced persistent neurological complications post-LT. CONCLUSIONS: Persistent and newly developed sarcopenia after LT appear to have negative outcomes on the prognosis of patients. Interventional strategies to optimize, increase or preserve muscle mass could help to improve post-operative recovery as well as the quality of life in patients who have undergone LT.