Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is accompanied by a complex and multifactorial pathogenesis with sequential progressions from inflammation to fibrosis and then to cancer. This heterogeneity interferes with the development of precise diagnostic and prognostic strategies for NAFLD. The current approach for the diagnosis of simple steatosis, steatohepatitis, and cirrhosis mainly consists of ultrasonography, magnetic resonance imaging, elastography, and various serological analyses. However, individual dry and wet biomarkers have limitations demanding an integrative approach for the assessment of disease progression. Here, we review diagnostic strategies for simple steatosis, steatohepatitis and hepatic fibrosis, followed by potential biomarkers associated with fat accumulation and mitochondrial stress. For mitochondrial stress indicators, we focused on fibroblast growth factor 21 (FGF21), growth differentiation factor 15 (GDF15), angiopoietin-related growth factor and mitochondrial-derived peptides. Each biomarker may not strongly indicate the severity of steatosis or steatohepatitis. Instead, multidimensional analysis of different groups of biomarkers based on pathogenic mechanisms may provide decisive diagnostic/prognostic information to develop a therapeutic plan for patients with NAFLD. For this purpose, mitochondrial stress indicators, such as FGF21 or GDF15, could be an important component in the multiplexed and contextual interpretation of NAFLD. Further validation of the integrative evaluation of mitochondrial stress indicators combined with other biomarkers is needed in the diagnosis/prognosis of NAFLD.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the Medical Research Center Program (2017R1A5A2015369), Bio & Medical Technology Development Program (NRF-2020M3A9D8039920), and NRF Grant (2019R1A2C2084604) from the Ministry of Science and ICT, Republic of Korea.
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