VCU to unveil Institute for Liver Disease and Metabolic Health

Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 1:24 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 13, 2021 at 11:29 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Virginia Commonwealth University plans to unveil a new Institute for Liver Disease and Metabolic Health that will build on the university’s nationally recognized hepatology and liver transplant programs.

The institute will be led by Arun Sanyal, M.D., a researcher and liver disease specialist at VCU Health and a professor in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, and Nutrition in the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine.

Sanyal spoke about the new institute and its impact on the community.

“It is an exceptional opportunity to tackle real-life problems over the entire course of liver disease — from early stages to liver transplantation — with the goal of improving health for us and for future generations based on cutting-edge research. I look forward to working with all stakeholders to make this vision a reality,” Sanyal said.

Sanyal says VCU health is equipped to tackle many health concerns, but some areas are researched more than others.

“Most places have a heart center, diabetes center, cancer center, and those are incredibly important areas of research, but one area that has been neglected in the past is liver disease,” Sanyal said.

Liver disease affects hundreds of thousands of Americans every year, but less than 9,000 liver transplants are done nationwide, with less than 300 of those procedures taking place in Virginia. Sanyal says UVA health and VCU health are the only two health systems in the state qualified to perform liver transplants, with VCU health conducting 157 of those so far this year.

“We know that you cannot just walk in and order a liver transplant off the shelf... we are limited by the number of organs in this country,” Sanyal said. “Other than liver transplants, there is no viable long-term treatment that is highly effective in turning around the mortality and providing long-term quality of life for people who have reached the end of the road with liver disease.”

The institute would make VCU a global leader in research and education about liver diseases, metabolically driven disorders, and the care for patients with these conditions.

Sanyal says liver-related ailments don’t just stem from alcohol or drug use and have the potential to affect a large percentage of Virginians.

“We know that two-thirds of our population is obese, and if you are obese, you have a three out of four chance that you actually have liver disease of some sort related to obesity; three out of four,” Sanyal said.

Senior Vice President for VCU Health and Sciences and CEO of VCU Health Art Kellermann, M.D. says the institute will feature a strong focus on translating the benefits of basic research to patients. It will help improve the prevention, early detection, and treatment of liver diseases.

“There are a number of points through which the work that the liver institute will do will relate directly to the health of most all Americans and the majority of people in Virginia,” Sanyal said.

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