The use of rat and mouse models limits the translation to humans for developing novel drugs targeting nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Obeticholic acid (OCA) illustrates this limitation since its dyslipidemic effect in humans cannot be observed in these rodents. Conversely, Golden Syrian hamsters have a lipoprotein metabolism mimicking human dyslipidemia since it does express the cholesteryl ester transfer protein (CETP). We therefore developed a Diet-Induced NASH (DIN) hamster model and evaluated the impact of OCA.
Compared with chow fed controls, hamsters fed for 20 weeks with a free-choice (FC) diet, developed obesity, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia and NASH (microvesicular steatosis, inflammation, hepatocyte ballooning and perisinusoidal to bridging fibrosis). After 20 weeks of diet, FC fed hamsters were treated without or with obeticholic acid (15 mg/kg/day) for 5 weeks. Although a non-significant trend towards higher dietary caloric intake was observed, OCA significantly lowered body weight after 5 weeks of treatment. OCA significantly increased CETP activity and LDL-C levels by 20% and 27%, and reduced HDL-C levels by 20%. OCA blunted hepatic gene expression of Cyp7a1 and Cyp8b1 and reduced fecal bile acids mass excretion by 64% (P < 0.05). Hamsters treated with OCA showed a trend towards higher scavenger receptor Class B type I (SR-BI) and lower LDL-receptor hepatic protein expression. OCA reduced NAS score for inflammation (P < 0.01) and total NAS score, although not significantly.
Compared to mouse and rat models, the DIN hamster replicates benefits and side effects of OCA as observed in humans, and should be useful for evaluating novel drugs targeting NASH.