Biliary atresia: will blocking inflammation tame the disease?

Annu Rev Med. 2011;62:171-85. doi: 10.1146/annurev-med-042909-093734.


Biliary atresia is the most common cholangiopathy of childhood. With complete obstruction of segments or the entire length of extrahepatic bile ducts, the timely pursuit of hepatoportoenterostomy is the best strategy to restore bile drainage. However, even with prompt surgical intervention, ongoing injury of intrahepatic bile ducts and progressive cholangiopathy lead to end-stage cirrhosis. The pace of disease progression is not uniform; it may relate to clinical forms of disease and/or staging of liver pathology at diagnosis. Although the etiology of disease is not yet defined, several biological processes have been linked to pathogenic mechanisms of bile duct injury. Among them, there is increasing evidence that the immune system targets the duct epithelium and disrupts bile flow. We discuss how careful clinical phenotyping, staging of disease, and basic mechanistic research are providing insights into clinical trial designs and directions for development of new therapies to block progression of disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bile Ducts / growth & development
  • Bile Ducts / immunology
  • Bile Ducts / virology
  • Biliary Atresia / drug therapy*
  • Biliary Atresia / etiology
  • Biliary Atresia / pathology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / drug therapy*
  • Inflammation / immunology
  • Inflammation / virology
  • Liver / growth & development
  • Liver / immunology
  • Liver / virology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / etiology
  • Liver Cirrhosis / immunology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Portoenterostomy, Hepatic
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents