FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Eighty million Americans are affected by nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. About half of them will develop a disease known as NASH that can lead to cirrhosis and death without a transplant. There's currently no cure, but a new medical treatment could help reverse it.
Steve Garcia has been competitively racing motor bikes for four years.
Garcia told ABC30, "It's a rush. It's a lot of fun."
But racing became less enjoyable when he began suffering stomach pain. He thought it was his gall bladder. But tests showed otherwise.
"They're like, man you have a lot of the fat content of an obese person in your liver, and obviously, that's an issue that leads to scarring, and they talk about cirrhosis," Garcia explained.
Garcia was diagnosed with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis or NASH. John Vierling, MD, Professor of Surgery at Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center says the disease is caused by a buildup of fat in the liver. It's a leading cause of cirrhosis affecting 20 million Americans.
Dr. Vierling told ABC30, "Now those are very frightening numbers. Especially if we look at, what would be the consequence of people with NASH going to cirrhosis and ultimately needing a liver transplant."
There are no medical treatments for NASH, but a new breakthrough drug could change that. Made from a modified bile acid, the drug helps reduce fat and inflammation in the liver.
"Get rid of the fat, get rid of the inflammation and you quiet the disease," Dr. Vierling said.
Results from an earlier trial were so good, it was stopped early and is now ready for phase three.
Garcia told ABC30, "You've always kind of heard that there's nothing you can do about cirrhosis, so it's definitely good they are looking into this kind of stuff."
This is news that's giving Garcia and his fiancee hope for the future.
Dr. Vierling also says there's a natural way to control NASH. It's linked to obesity. By losing just 10 percent of your body weight you can have an enormous impact on the liver.
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