BACKGROUND: Hepatic encephalopathy (HE) is a neuropsychiatric syndrome, a major complication of 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: To develop and characterize an animal model of cirrhosis and obesity to investigate the impact of obesity on the development of neurological impairment in cirrhotic rats.
M&M: Obesity: To induce obesity, high-fat diet (HFD) was given for 3 weeks before surgical intervention (bile-duct ligation (BDL) or Sham). Experimental groups: 1. Obese-BDL: rats received HFD for 3 weeks pre-BDL and normal diet (ND) for 6 weeks post-BDL; 2. Lean-BDL: rats received ND pre- and post-BDL; 3. Lean-Sham: rats received ND pre- and post-sham surgery. HE parameters: Motor coordination, muscular strength, and recognition memory were assessed pre-pre-, 3 and 6 weeks post-surgical intervention using RotaRod, grip- strength and object recognition test respectively. Body-composition (echoMRI): Fat, lean mass and free water were monitored.
RESULTS: Three weeks HFD lead to an increase in fat mass in comparison to rats on ND (p<0.01). Three weeks after surgery, fat, and lean mass and free water were increased in Obese-BDL vs Lean-BDL rats (p<0.05). Long-term memory was reduced in Obese-BDL, but not in Lean-BDL, vs Lean-Sham rats (p<0.05). Six weeks after surgery, similar to Lean-BDL rats, Obese-BDL rats lost fat and lean mass, and increased free water vs Lean-Sham rats (p<0.5). Motor coordination, forelimb strength and long-term memory were impaired in Obese-BDL rats in comparison to Lean-BDL and Lean-Sham rats (p<0.01), whereas hind-limb strength and short-term memory were impaired in both Obese- and Lean-BDL rats when compared to Lean-Sham rats (p<0.01).
CONCLUSION: Obesity exacerbates and accelerates the accumulation of free water and motor coordination deficits in cirrhotic-BDL rats. Interestingly, long-term memory and forelimb strength deficits were impaired in Obese-BDL but not in Lean-BDL rats. This novel animal model of CLD and obesity suggests obesity accelerates CLD-induced neurological impairment. Therefore, this model of CLD and obesity will provide important clues to the underlying mechanisms of HE associated with obesity-induced cirrhosis and provide new insights into novel therapeutic strategies.