Published: 15 March 2013

Leading charity funds University of Surrey research into paediatric fatty liver disease

Liver disease is now one of the fastest growing health risks in the UK. Paediatric non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common cause of childhood liver disease, affecting between three and nine per cent of all children and more than three quarters of those who are obese — and numbers are growing ...

Now, thanks to funding from the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation (CLDF), the University of Surrey is to explore the role of vitamin D in the progression of the disease.

The £74,500 award will fund a three-year PhD student fellowship, led by Dr Bernadette Moore, Lecturer in Molecular Nutrition at the University of Surrey. Dr Moore will be working in collaboration with Kings College Hospital Paediatric Liver Clinic.

“We are thrilled that CLDF have agreed to fund this project which will enable us to find out more about a disease which is affecting increasing numbers of UK children,” said Dr Moore.

“While we know that people in the UK have low level vitamin D status during the winter due to the lack of sunlight, children with fatty liver disease have been shown to have particularly low levels associated with more severe liver disease. This project will examine the diet and specific genes that can affect vitamin D levels in UK children with liver disease.

“In addition, to try to understand how it is that vitamin D might be protecting the liver, we will test the response of liver cells to vitamin D treatment in the laboratory. In particular, we will measure the levels of certain molecules called micro RNAs. The results of this study will tell us if children with liver disease will benefit from getting more vitamin D in their diet or as a supplement and possibly identify molecules that can be targeted in the treatment of liver disease.”

Over the past 30 years, CLDF has funded more than £8 million of research projects, encompassing clinical, laboratory and social research, including previous studies carried out both by Dr Moore and the Kings College Hospital paediatric team.

“Supporting research is a vital area of our work as this is what gives young people and their families hope for a better future,” said CLDF chief executive Catherine Arkley. “We are delighted to be working with both teams again by funding this collaborative study, which will be the first of its kind in the UK and which we hope will represent a key step forward in our understanding of NAFLD.” 

Find out more about NAFLD on the NHS Choices website.

Share what you've read?