Liraglutide Decreases Hepatic Inflammation and Injury in Advanced Lean Non‐Alcoholic Steatohepatitis

David H. Ipsen, Bidda Rolin, Günaj Rakipovski, Gry F. Skovsted, Anette Madsen, Stefanie Hansborg Kolstrup, Anne Marie Schou-Pedersen, Josephine Skat-Rørdam, Jens Lykkesfeldt, Pernille Tveden-Nyborg

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Although commonly associated with obesity, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is also present in the lean population representing a unique disease phenotype. Affecting 25% of the world's population, NAFLD is associated with increased mortality especially when progressed to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). However, no approved pharmacological treatments exist. Current research focuses mainly on NASH associated with obesity, leaving the effectiveness of promising treatments in lean NASH virtually unknown. This study therefore aimed to evaluate the effect of liraglutide (glucagon-like peptide 1 analogue) and dietary intervention, alone and in combination, in guinea pigs with non-obese NASH. After 20 weeks of high-fat feeding (20% fat, 15% sucrose, 0.35% cholesterol), 40 female guinea pigs were block-randomized based on weight into four groups receiving one of four treatments for 4 weeks: continued high-fat diet (HF, control), high-fat diet and liraglutide treatment (HFL), chow diet (4% fat, 0% sucrose, 0% cholesterol; HFC) or chow diet and liraglutide treatment (HFCL). High-fat feeding induced NASH with severe fibrosis. Liraglutide decreased inflammation (p < 0.05) and hepatocyte ballooning (p < 0.05), while increasing hepatic α-tocopherol (p = 0.0154). Dietary intervention did not improve liver histopathology significantly, but decreased liver weight (p = 0.004), plasma total cholesterol (p = 0.0175), LDL-cholesterol (p = 0.0063), VLDL-cholesterol (p = 0.0034), hepatic cholesterol (p < 0.0001) and increased hepatic vitamin C (p = 0.0099). Combined liraglutide and dietary intervention induced a rapid weight loss, necessitating periodical liraglutide dose adjustment/discontinuation, limiting the strength of the findings from this group. Collectively, this pre-clinical study supports the beneficial effect of liraglutide on NASH and extends this notion to lean NASH.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBasic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)704-713
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Animals
  • Diet, High-Fat/adverse effects
  • Female
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Hypoglycemic Agents/therapeutic use
  • Lipids/analysis
  • Liraglutide/therapeutic use
  • Liver Glycogen/analysis
  • Liver/chemistry
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease/diet therapy
  • Oxidative Stress/drug effects


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