Alcoholic Liver damage (ALD) is an umbrella term for the wide-range spectrum of illnesses that can result from chronic alcohol consumption. When an individual consumes an alcoholic beverage, proteins in the liver carry out reactions resulting in the elimination of ethanol from the body’s blood supply. The ultimate goal of these metabolic pathways is to break down ethanol into carbon dioxide and water, but toxic byproducts are produced along the way. First, ethanol is converted to a toxic molecule called acetaldehyde, which is quickly converted to acetate and excreted from the body by the kidneys.
Since the liver has a limited supply of enzymes, consuming large quantities of alcohol can deplete the cells from available enzymes that convert acetaldehyde to acetate, leading to increased concentrations of this toxic substance in the body. When this behavior is repeated constantly over many years, the liver becomes inflamed and the structure of the cells is interrupted, altering liver functions. Since the liver plays important roles in the body such as producing/breaking down fats, muscle synthesis, and regulation of many more metabolic pathways, disruptions to its function can have severe consequences on the whole body.
Treatment options range from avoiding alcohol completely, undergoing psychotherapy, behavioral/social therapy, different drugs and drug combinations, and lastly undergoing liver transplantation. Because these treatment options only work to manage the disease, and can rarely reverse previous damage, scientists across many fields have been, and still are, looking for new targets for drug therapy than can have a higher impact on the disease and hopefully reverse some of the damage i patients with advanced ALD.
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