Genetics and epigenetics play a key role in the development of several diseases, including nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Family studies demonstrate that first degree relatives of patients with NAFLD are at a much higher risk of the disease than the general population. The development of the Genome Wide Association Study (GWAS) technology has allowed the identification of numerous genetic polymorphisms involved in the evolution of diseases (e.g., PNPLA3
). On the other hand, epigenetic changes interact with inherited risk factors to determine an individual’s susceptibility to NAFLD. Modifications of the histones amino-terminal ends are key factors in the maintenance of chromatin structure and gene expression (cAMP-responsive element binding protein H (CREBH) or SIRT1). Activation of SIRT1 showed potential against the physiological mechanisms related to NAFLD. Abnormal DNA methylation represents a starting point for cancer development in NAFLD patients. Besides, the evaluation of circulating miRNA profiles represents a promising approach to assess and non-invasively monitor liver disease severity. To date, there is no approved pharmacologic therapy for NAFLD and the current treatment remains weight loss with lifestyle modification and exercise. In this review, the status of research into relevant genetic and epigenetic modifiers of NAFLD progression will be discussed.
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