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A biochemist of the CIMA of the University of Navarra discover the protective action of a molecule in processes of inflammation

Dr. Henar Hevia suggests that administering MTA could help to prevent the development of liver cancer and combat autoimmune diseases

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FOTO: Manuel Castells
12/04/06 16:50 Mª Pilar Huarte

Henar Hevia Pérez, a researcher in the area of Genetic Therapy and Hepatology of the Center for Applied Medical Research (CIMA) of the University of Navarra, has discovered the protective role of the molecule methylthioadenosine (MTA) in a model of inflammation in vivo. The new Doctor has just presented her doctoral thesis in the School of Sciences.

As the biochemist explained, "the inflammatory component is key to the development of many diseases, including those which affect the liver, and therefore it is vitally important to create new therapeutic strategies directed towards mitigating its effects."

"In addition to its many other functions, the liver plays an important role in the metabolism of amino acids. Among these amino acids, methionine is particularly important, since it is an essential amino acids whose metabolism is altered by hepatic diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer. As a result, the effort of researchers has for some time been focused on the study of the hepatic metabolism of this amino acids and the pathologic consequences of its alteration."

Inflammation associated with liver diseases

Dr. Henar Hevia has studied the role of MTA, an important metabolic derivative of methionine, in inflammation, which is a process associated with a large variety of pathologies, including liver damage. These studies are performed in both in vivo and in vitro models, and in both of these the anti-inflammatory effect of MTA can be confirmed. The researcher noted that "the administration of MTA prevents the development of the acute inflammatory response and thus completely protects the animals from dying." In addition, prolonged treatment with MTA is well tolerated and has never produced adverse reactions in animals.

In her opinion, this research being performed in the CIMA of the University of Navarra suggests that "the administration of MTA could be effective in the treatment of diseases which contain an inflammatory component, such as cirrhosis of the liver, arthritis or multiple sclerosis."