Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the most common hepatic disorder, with prevalence around 25% in the Western countries.
With the application of volume imaging, we have discovered that one portion of the vegetative nerves in the liver undergoes a severe degeneration in experimental and human fatty liver disease.
The study that was published in Science Advances in 2021 describes that the degeneration of liver sympathetic nerves is correlated with liver pathology and emphasizes that the entire nerve-mediated communication becomes impaired in the fatty liver. Furthermore, it concludes that a chronically high sympathetic tone is a key factor in the reported degeneration. The study reveals that alterations in the liver sympathetic innervation occurs already in early stages of fatty liver disease and with progression to the more severe stage steatohepatitis, these alterations turn to pronounced degeneration of the nerves.
3D reconstructions of hepatic sympathetic nerves from healthy and fatty livers are available as part of the open database NeuroMorpho.org.
Video demonstrations of liver tissue are available here.