Early Detection Liver Disease

Healthcare illustration

Our academics are developing technologies that will more quickly and cheaply detect liver disease than ever before. The discovery of this reliable and non-invasive test meets an unmet clinical need.

Liver disease is a silent killer. Symptoms often only appear at a late stage, by which time treatments are limited.

Liver disease is currently the third most common cause of premature death in the UK. Worldwide, nearly a billion people have chronic liver disease, with a mortality rate of approximately 2 million deaths per year. If the trend continues, we can expect this number to at least treble by 2050. Early detection is therefore crucial.

Key researchers

Professor Christopher Mayhew

School of Physics and Astronomy
Professor of Molecular Physics

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Dr Margaret O'Hara Dr Margaret O'Hara

School of Physics and Astronomy
Daphne Jackson Trust Fellow

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Dr Raquel Fernández del Río

School of Physics and Astronomy
Marie Curie Fellow

Current diagnostic processes for detecting liver disease

Liver biopsy is currently the 'gold standard' of diagnostics. This procedure, however, is invasive and can cause significant complications. There can also be problems with sampling because of the non-uniform distribution of liver disease.

Developing more effective early detection of liver disease

Our research has led to the discovery of a reliable and non-invasive test. Not only does it lead to the detection of early stage liver disease, but it could be used to monitor liver function and to determine the effectiveness of new drugs for liver disease that are coming onto the market.

Through our research we have proved conclusively the link between liver disease and higher levels of the hydrocarbon limonene in the breath. This involves the ingestion of safe volatile chemical compounds that enter the bloodstream through the stomach and subsequently appear in trace quantities in the breath. These volatiles in breath provide probes to the health of the whole liver.

Benefits of early detection

Our research holds enormous promise for improved healthcare, the implications of which are far-reaching both for patients and for healthcare providers.

Liver disease has a widespread effect not only on the patient, encompassing physical and psychological morbidity and mortality, but also on wider society. Our work, which lays the foundation for the early detection of liver disease cheaply, unambiguously and non-invasively, holds the key to reversing the trend of increases in mortality rates resulting from liver disease.

Partner with us

We’re always keen to develop new ways to work with other universities, healthcare organisations and industry to improve health outcomes. Please contact:  Professor Christopher Mayhew, on +44 1214148460 or c.mayhew@bham.ac.uk.