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BACKGROUND & AIMS: Insulin resistance and lipotoxicity are pathognomonic in non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). Glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) analogues are licensed for type 2 diabetes, but no prospective experimental data exists in NASH. This study determined the effect of a long-acting GLP-1 analogue, liraglutide, on organ-specific insulin sensitivity, hepatic lipid handling and adipose dysfunction in biopsy-proven NASH. METHODS: Fourteen patients were randomised to 1.8mg liraglutide or placebo for 12-weeks of the mechanistic component of a double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled trial ( Patients underwent paired hyperinsulinaemic euglycaemic clamps, stable isotope tracers, adipose microdialysis and serum adipocytokine/metabolic profiling. In vitro isotope experiments on lipid flux were performed on primary human hepatocytes. RESULTS: Liraglutide reduced BMI (-1.9 vs. +0.04kg/m(2); p<0.001), HbA1c (-0.3 vs. +0.3%; p<0.01), cholesterol-LDL (-0.7 vs. +0.05mmol/L; p<0.01), ALT (-54 vs. -4.0IU/L; p<0.01) and serum leptin, adiponectin, and CCL-2 (all p<0.05). Liraglutide increased hepatic insulin sensitivity (-9.36 vs. -2.54% suppression of hepatic endogenous glucose production with low-dose insulin; p<0.05). Liraglutide increased adipose tissue insulin sensitivity enhancing the ability of insulin to suppress lipolysis both globally (-24.9 vs. +54.8pmol/L insulin required to ½ maximally suppress serum non-esterified fatty acids; p<0.05), and specifically within subcutaneous adipose tissue (p<0.05). In addition, liraglutide decreased hepatic de novo lipogenesis in vivo (-1.26 vs. +1.30%; p<0.05); a finding endorsed by the effect of GLP-1 receptor agonist on primary human hepatocytes (24.6% decrease in lipogenesis vs. untreated controls; p<0.01). CONCLUSIONS: Liraglutide reduces metabolic dysfunction, insulin resistance and lipotoxicity in the key metabolic organs in the pathogenesis of NASH. Liraglutide may offer the potential for a disease-modifying intervention in NASH.

Original publication




Journal article


J Hepatol

Publication Date





399 - 408


Adipose tissue, Glucagon-like peptide 1, Insulin sensitivity, Lipolysis, Non-alcoholic fatty liver, Adult, Aged, Body Mass Index, Double-Blind Method, Drug Monitoring, Female, Glucagon-Like Peptide 1, Glucose Clamp Technique, Glycated Hemoglobin A, Humans, Hypoglycemic Agents, Insulin Resistance, Lipid Metabolism, Liraglutide, Liver, Male, Middle Aged, Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, Treatment Outcome