Soluble urokinase plasminogen activator receptor levels are associated with severity of fibrosis in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease

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The identification of individuals with severe liver fibrosis among patients with chronic liver disease is of major importance when evaluating prognosis, potential risk for complications, and when deciding treatment strategies. Although percutaneous liver biopsy is still considered a “gold standard” for staging of liver fibrosis, attempts to find reliable noninvasive markers of liver fibrosis are frequent. Inflammation is essential for the progression of fibrosis. The urokinase plasminogen activator and its receptor have been associated with hepatic inflammation and fibrosis in mice. High serum concentrations of soluble urokinase plasminogen activator receptor (suPAR) are suggested to be involved in inflammation, tissue remodeling, and cancer metastasis. Here, we evaluated serum suPAR as a noninvasive test to detect liver fibrosis in 82 well-characterized patients with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), and in 38 untreated patients with chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection at the time of their first liver biopsy. suPAR levels were increased in chronic liver disease compared with blood donors (P< 0.001). Patients with HCV had higher suPAR concentrations than patients with NAFLD (P< 0.002). suPAR levels were associated with the severity of fibrosis, particularly in NAFLD, but did not correlate with inflammation. Regarding the performance in predicting severity of fibrosis, suPAR was essentially as good as other commonly used noninvasive fibrosis scoring systems. The results in HCV confirm previous observations. However, this is the first study to investigate suPAR as a biomarker in NAFLD, and the results indicate that suPAR may constitute a severity marker related to fibrosis and prognosis rather than reflecting inflammation.

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