Published online Nov 7, 2015. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v21.i41.11522
Peer-review started: June 29, 2015
First decision: July 13, 2015
Revised: July 31, 2015
Accepted: September 30, 2015
Article in press: September 30, 2015
Published online: November 7, 2015
This review focuses on new findings about the inflammatory status involved in the development of human liver cirrhosis induced by the two main causes, hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and chronic alcohol abuse, avoiding results obtained from animal models. When liver is faced to a persistent and/or intense local damage the maintained inflammatory response gives rise to a progressive replacement of normal hepatic tissue by non-functional fibrotic scar. The imbalance between tissue regeneration and fibrosis will determine the outcome toward health recovery or hepatic cirrhosis. In all cases progression toward liver cirrhosis is caused by a dysregulation of mechanisms that govern the balance between activation/homeostasis of the immune system. Detecting differences between the inflammatory status in HCV-induced vs alcohol-induced cirrhosis could be useful to identify specific targets for preventive and therapeutic intervention in each case. Thus, although survival of patients with alcoholic cirrhosis seems to be similar to that of patients with HCV-related cirrhosis (HCV-C), there are important differences in the altered cellular and molecular mechanisms implicated in the progression toward human liver cirrhosis. The predominant features of HCV-C are more related with those that allow viral evasion of the immune defenses, especially although not exclusively, inhibition of interferons secretion, natural killer cells activation and T cell-mediated cytotoxicity. On the contrary, the inflammatory status of alcohol-induced cirrhosis is determined by the combined effect of direct hepatotoxicity of ethanol metabolites and increases of the intestinal permeability, allowing bacteria and bacterial products translocation, into the portal circulation, mesenteric lymph nodes and peritoneal cavity. This phenomenon generates a stronger pro-inflammatory response compared with HCV-related cirrhosis. Hence, therapeutic intervention in HCV-related cirrhosis must be mainly focused to counteract HCV-immune system evasion, while in the case of alcohol-induced cirrhosis it must try to break the inflammatory loop established at the gut-mesenteric lymph nodes-peritoneal-systemic axis.
Core tip: This review focuses on new findings about the inflammatory status involved in the development of human liver cirrhosis, avoiding results obtained from animal models. Liver cirrhosis is induced by the two main causes, infection with hepatitis C virus and chronic alcohol abuse. Detecting differences in the inflammatory status between both cirrhosis etiologies could be useful to identify specific targets for preventive and therapeutic intervention in each case.