B cells that drive disease play a role in the development of NAFLD

A new study from the University of Minnesota School of Medicine suggests that disease-driving B cells, a white blood cell, play a role in the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) – the liver condition most common breast in the U.S. Their findings could lead to targeted treatments for NAFLD, which currently affects a quarter of the country and does not have FDA-approved treatments.

After noticing that patients with the disease showed a large number of inflammatory B cells in their liver, Xavier Revelo, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Integrated Biology and Psychology and senior author, began study of B cells in NAFLD.

This disease is becoming more common and treatments are not allowed in sight. Despite great efforts to better understand this disease, the symptoms of inflammation during NAFLD are unclear. Our laboratory explores these motivational factors to provide diagnostic and therapeutic treatment targets for its prevention and treatment. “

Xavier Revelo, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Integrated Biology and Psychology

This study was led by Fanta Barrow, a second-year graduate student at the U of M School of Medicine from the Revelo laboratory, and was published in Hepatology. The main results are:

  • People with NAFLD have higher numbers of B cells;
  • The Western diet – defined as high in fat, cholesterol and carbohydrates, such as sucrose and fructose – relied on programming those B cells that fought pathogens to induce disease;
  • And, changes in the gut microbes were dependent on the activation of those disease-promoting B cells.

“These findings lay the basis for a possible targeting of B cells, or pathways involved in their activation, for the treatment of NAFLD,” Revelo said. “Further work is needed to investigate the effectiveness, safety and potential side effects of such strategies. “


University of Minnesota School of Medicine

Magazine Reference:

Barrow, F., et al. (2021) Microbiota Activation – Controlled by Intrahepatic B Cells Reducing Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis Through Internal and Appropriate Symptoms. Hepatology. doi.org/10.1002/hep.31755.