Dr. Joel Lavine Discusses Evolving Diagnostics, Prognostics and Therapeutics for NAFLD


DEL MAR, CA / JULY 8, 2022 / Roughly 25 percent of adults in the U.S. have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Joel Lavine MD is an academic physician-scientist with significant research interest in NAFLD and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). He recently discussed the evolving diagnosis, prognostics, and therapeutics for NAFLD. 

What Is NAFLD?

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease encompasses a variety of conditions caused by fat build-up in the liver. It is most common in overweight or obese individuals but can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, including children. NAFLD is the most prevalent form of chronic liver disease in the United States. 

Diagnosis of NAFLD

Columbia University Professor Dr. Joel Lavine explained that the diagnosis of NAFLD and NASH are constantly evolving, especially as the disease becomes more common. Doctors like Lavine may administer imaging tests, blood tests, or liver biopsies to determine if an individual has NAFLD. 

Imaging tests may include the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), computed tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound, or elastography. Elastography is one of the newest types of imaging tests that can determine if someone has advanced liver fibrosis. This test can determine the stiffness of the through. The most common types of elastography include sheer-wave elastography, magnetic resonance elastography, and vibration-controlled transient elastography, a special type of ultrasound. 

Long-term Prognosis of NAFLD

There are currently no medicines to treat NAFLD or NASH. NASH may result in cirrhosis. Many complications associated with cirrhosis are treatable via medication, surgery, or some minor medical procedures. Individuals experiencing liver cancer or liver failure may require a liver transplant to return to health.

Therapeutics for NAFLD

Joel Lavine MD explained that NAFLD is preventable. The easiest way to prevent NAFLD is to maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, limit portion size, and achieve a healthy weight. 

Several clinical trials are currently underway for NAFLD. Researchers are currently studying the numerous aspects of NAFLD and NASH, including new treatments for NASH, how liver diseases progress over time, and how genetics increase the risk for NAFLD development. 

Joel Lavine Columbia and NAFLD Research

Throughout the past four years, Dr. Lavine has been investigating a first-in-class agonist of the nuclear hormone farnesoid-x receptor-alpha in a phase 3 trial for NASH in adults. He has also initiated a variety of studies examining serum proteomic signatures, hepatic nuclear hormone receptor profiles, genetic susceptibility, and the effects of sex steroids on NAFLD.

Lavine explained that NAFLD is not only becoming more prevalent but it’s also become more severe, especially in Hispanic populations. Much of his research involves uncovering the relationship between genetics and the severity of the disease to help create future interventions that may regulate or reduce the severity. 

Dr. Lavine was the most cited author and physician-scientist at Columbia University for the past two years. He’s also the most cited Pediatric GI specialist in the United States. He continues to research NAFLD and act as a volunteer physician for the American Liver Foundation with the goal of reducing the commonality and severity of NAFLD and other liver diseases.