Hepatotoxic effects of perfluoroalkyl substances: a new epidemiological approach for studying environmental fatty liver disease

The prevalence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in children has almost tripled over the past 20 years. NAFLD currently affects 8-12% of the general pediatric population in the U.S. and more that 30% of obese children. Mounting evidence suggests that early life environmental exposures contribute to the etiology of NAFLD.

The proposed research will be the first human study to examine the effects of widely used perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), using the gold standard of liver biopsies for disease diagnosis and liver-specific and plasma metabolomic measures to examine biological mechanisms linking PFAS to liver disease. We will examine this hypothesis in a novel study design using liver and plasma samples from obese adolescents undergoing bariatric surgery. The proposal addresses a critical gap in our current understanding of etiology of the rapid increase in occurrence of NAFLD in youth and could ultimately lead to new strategies for treatment and prevention.

This project is supported by NIEHS R02 ES030691.