Enzyme treatment for jaundice?

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Minimizing the effects of jaundice in newborns and adults might be possible, thanks to recent study from the University of Guelph.

Researchers found that a particular liver enzyme helps to protect cells from the damage that is caused by jaundice – and the findings suggest that a future drug or supplement using the enzyme might be able to treat the condition.

Standard treatment doesn't always work

Jaundice can occur in people who have liver diseases associated with alcoholism, like hepatitis or cirrhosis. The condition is characterized by yellowing of the skin and eyes, and it's caused by excess bilirubin – a chemical in hemoglobin – which builds up in the liver at a rate too fast for it to be broken down.

According to a press release on the research, almost two out of three newborns contract jaundice. The standard treatment for the condition is ultraviolet light therapy, but it doesn't always work. Severe cases can cause permanent brain damage, hearing loss or cerebral palsy.

Enzyme removes bilirubin

Other studies have shown that a naturally occurring enzyme can break down bilirubin, and the Guelph research reveals that having more bilirubin in the blood actually activates the gene that makes this enzyme. In turn, the enzyme helps to protect liver cells from dying.

While the findings may hold promise for a new treatment, the researchers note that more work needs to be done to determine safe and effective levels of the enzyme.

"We need to fine-tune our ability to manipulate this enzyme and fully understand its role in bilirubin removal," they wrote.

Source: University of Guelph

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