News from the Centre for Liver Research

New hope for donor livers previously thought unsuitable for transplant

A new clinical trial is looking at the feasibility of using ‘discarded’ livers to tackle the shortage of liver donors, and help decrease waiting times for patients on the transplant register.The trial, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust, starts early November 2016 and ends October 2017. It is being managed by Professor Darius Mirza and Mr Hynek Mergental, Consultant Transplant Surgeons at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and Dr Simon Afford, Reader in Liver Immunopathology at the University of Birmingham, with support from Clinical Research Fellows, Mr Richard Laing and Mr Yuri Boteon.

 Discover more about the trial

Prestigious prize awarded for work in liver research  30/06/2016

Dr Ye Htun Oo from the Centre for Liver Research at the University of Birmingham has been awarded the 2016 Sir Francis Avery Jones Medal from the British Society of Gastroenterology in recognition of his T-cell research, and an innovative study he is due to lead starting in July 2016.   This award is highly prestigious within its field and is great recognition of the research undertaken by Dr Oo and his team, which is supported by funding from the Medical Research Council and the NIHR Birmingham Liver BRU.  Read more about Dr Oo's work 

Researcher recognised for major contribution in clinical sciences 30/06/2016

Professor Gideon Hirschfield from the Centre for Liver Research in the Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy has been awarded the prestigious Graham Bull Prize in clinical science and Goulstonian Lectureship from the Royal College of Physicians.  

This award is made to researchers under the age of 45 for a major contribution to clinical science and as part of the award Professor Hirschfield will deliver the revered Goulstonian Lecture which was first endowed in 1635. Discover more about the research

FDA Support for Obeticholic Acid (OCA) 08/04/16

Work from Birmingham led by Dr Gideon Hirschfield has contributed to FDA approval on April 7th 2016 of the  first new drug approved for use in the liver disease primary biliary cirrhosis (PBC) in 20 years. PBC is a rare liver disease that primarily results from autoimmune destruction of the bile ducts that transport bile acids out of the liver, resulting in cholestasis. It is primarily a disease of women, afflicting approximately one in 1,000 women over the age of 40.  In Europe, the disease accounts for approximately half of liver transplants due to cholestatic diseases and 6% of all liver transplants. Data from UK-PBC played a key role in convincing the FDA committee that there is significant unmet need in PBC and thus a need for new drugs. Read more about FDA Support

BRU student wins mobile app competition 16/3/16 

The UK-PBC Risk Score iPhone app was developed by PhD student Gwilym Webb The app assesses five measurements routinely taken in a standard blood test to predict whether the condition is deteriorating so that the patient would need a transplant within 15 years. The app may also help patient avoid the need for an invasive liver biopsy.


Pioneering stem cell therapies in liver disease to be trialled in Birmingham.  18/3/2014

University of Birmingham researchers are leading a worldwide collaboration of scientists looking at the possibility of transplanting stem cells from one person to another to reduce inflammation in the liver.

Professor Philip Newsome and Dr Gideon Hirschfield, from the NIHR Birmingham Liver BRU and the University’s School of Immunity and Infection, are leading the €5.4 million Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) to Reduce Liver Inflammation (MERLIN) programme which will include the first clinical trial of mesenchymal stem cells in liver disease in the UK.

View the full press release and view the details of the MERLIN consortium.


Ground breaking scan may help identify liver disease 26/11/13

A ground-breaking scan that can identify and help to treat liver disease, could make painful and invasive liver biopsies a thing of the past, thanks to a trial being led by the University of Birmingham.

Nearly 15 million people in the UK are affected by liver disease and this number is increasing. Most suffer from fatty liver disease which is linked to obesity, diabetes and alcohol excess and in severe cases can cause cancer or death. The Chief Medical Officer for England, Dame Sally Davies, identified it as a priority for the NHS in her report on the state of the nation's health and called for urgent action to reverse the trend. Patients who are suspected of having liver disease will usually be sent for an invasive biopsy to assess the level of damage. But, as well as being painful and uncomfortable, biopsies have some drawbacks, including the fact that they cannot be used over and over again on the same patient. The new scan, called LiverMultiscan, could be used numerous times which means doctors will find it easier to monitor the progress of the disease and adapt the treatment plan accordingly for the individual

The trial is a collaboration between clinicians and scientists at the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Birmingham Liver Biomedical Research Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and University of Birmingham, the University of Edinburgh and medical imaging company Perspectum Diagnostics. It is supported by a grant of £1.2 million from the UK's innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board.

Until now, non-invasive tests such as blood tests and routine scans have been limited in detecting liver damage, especially in the early stages where patients have the most to gain from treatment. The only current accurate way to diagnose liver disease is through a liver biopsy where a needle is put into the liver and a sample of tissue is taken. This is uncomfortable and carries a small risk of serious complications.

If successful, LiverMultiscanTM, which uses a new type of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) technology could be used throughout the UK to diagnose patients with liver disease without resorting to biopsies and could be available to patients in the NHS within three years.

Over the next two years the clinical study being undertaken will further assess LiverMultiscanTM and will also use the technology to monitor a group of patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis to see how well changes in the liver can be tracked over time.

Dr Peter Eddowes, NIHR Clinical Research Fellow in Hepatology at the University of Birmingham said:

"Liver disease often has no symptoms and people can go for years not knowing their liver is damaged. Current non-invasive tests lack the sensitivity to reliably pick up early liver disease"

Dr Gideon Hirschfield, the chief investigator on the study said:

"We are pleased to run this study in Birmingham alongside our partners in Edinburgh and Oxford. We hope LiverMultiscanTM will improve the care of liver patients and enable us to provide a quicker, cheaper and most importantly, safer diagnosis."

Research Tackles Liver Transplant Failure 1/11/13

The re-infection of transplanted livers with hepatitis C virus (HCV) – which can irreparably damage the new organ - could be halted by administering a drug which blocks the virus entering the liver, research from the University of Birmingham presented at the American Association for the Study of Liver Disease (AASLD) 2013 Meeting demonstrates.

BRU on camera!

The work of the Liver BRU features on a film made for the AASLD 2013 meeting. The film shows Professor David Adams, Dr Gideon Hirschfield, Professor Philip Newsome and Dr Evaggelia Liaskou talking about the important work of the Birmingham NIHR Liver Biomedical Research Unit. Dr Hirschfield notes that we are in a unique place in liver disease, having the university that leads the way in liver disease research and a 'hospital that has one of the most famous liver units in the world with a track record of liver transplantation going back decades.' Professor David Adams enthused about the opportunity and impact the unit can have, saying, "Our vision and what really excited me about this unit is the ability for the first time in my career, is to take basic discovery science from the laboratory into the patient for the benefit of patients with liver disease. We hope this is the beginning of a very exciting era of translational medicine in Birmingham

The film was screened in various conference venues and can now be seen on YouTube:

National Institute for Health Research - Birmingham Liver Biomedical Research Unit

NIHR Lecturer Ian Rowe  won the prize for the best oral presentation at the 2013 NIHR Experimental Medicine Research Training Camp

 ian Rowe

Ian receiving his prize from Professor Dave Jones

2013 NIHR Senior Investigator Awards

11th March 2013

Professor David Adams who is the director of the Birmingham NIHR Biomedical Research Unit has been awarded the title of NIHR Senior Investigator. He was one of just 19 out of 109 new applications to receive the award which are made according to criteria of quality and volume of internationally excellent research; its relevance to patients; and the public; impact on improvements in healthcare and public health; impact of individual research leadership including for NIHR; engagement of patients and the public and engagement of healthcare policy makers and planners with their research.


Liver BRU on Radio 4

About a third of deaths from liver disease are down to excessive alcohol consumption, but what is responsible for the majority of liver related deaths? Dr Mark Porter investigates this topic with doctors from the Birmingham NIHR Biomedical Research Unit on Inside Health on BBC Radio 4 at 9pm on 31st July 2012.

More information


Clinical Research Fellow Matthew Armstrong has won a poster prize at the 2012 NIHR Experimental Medicine Research Training Camp

Matthew Armstrong wins prize

The NIHR Experimental Medicine Research Training Camp was attended by 70 invited PhD students from Biomedical Research Centres, Biomedical Research Units and Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care.  As a condition of attendance at the Training Camp, each trainee had to submit an abstract about their research work.  Only 35 were selected for presentation.  Matthew won the best poster prize and was one of only  4 poster prizes awarded.  The poster competition was judged by Professor Jim Neilson (Dean of NIHR Trainees), Dr. Denise Best (Academic Careers Manager at Oxford BRU), Margaret Hall and Isobel Boyer (NIHR lay advisors).