NASH (Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis): A case of multiorganelle failure.

Research paper by Stephen S Caldwell

Indexed on: 16 Oct '15Published on: 16 Oct '15Published in: Free Radical Biology & Medicine


The clinical term 'multiorgan failure' lends itself, modified to 'multiorganelle failure', to the cascading events in cellular systems leading to hepatocyte injury, cell death, inflammation and fibrosis and ultimately to cirrhosis in NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis). NASH is one of the most common forms of liver disease and constitutes the severe form of NAFLD (non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). The key features that distinguish potentially progressive NASH from relatively stable non-NASH fatty liver (NNFL, often referred to as simple steatosis) are cellular ballooning, inflammation and fibrosis. These findings, together with steatosis or accumulation of greater than normal hepatic lipid, usually constitute histological NASH seen on liver biopsy or in laboratory samples. Cellular ballooning is not specific to NASH but it is perhaps the most emblematic finding on histological samples. The ballooned hepatocyte has evidence of cytoskeletal injury (depletion and condensation as Mallory-Denk bodies), accumulation of partially oxidized small fat droplets, mitochondrial morphological changes presumably related to organelle dysfunction, dilated endoplasmic reticulum and autophagosomes - an attempt at cellular repair. Ballooning itself likely results from a combination of cytoskeletal injury resulting in loss of normal cell shape and from accumulation of injured and somewhat derelict small fat droplets and dilated endoplasmic reticulum. Cellular injury in NASH and especially cellular ballooning can be viewed as a process of 'multi-organelle failure' beginning with generation of super oxide and failure to contain the subsequent oxidative injury and by-products in an environment rich in lipid fuel. These events lead to activation of imunologic pathways. Dysfunction of the small fat droplet appears to be a central mechanism and the oxidative injury can be viewed as the process of rancidification - the chemical decomposition of oils, lipids and fats.