Why Bile Acids Are So Important in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) Progression

Cells. 2019 Oct 30;8(11):1358. doi: 10.3390/cells8111358.


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a complex disease, affecting not just the liver, but also all other organs in the body. Despite an increasing amount of people worldwide developing NAFLD and having it progress to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and potentially cirrhosis, there is still no approved therapy. Therefore, huge efforts are being made to find and develop a successful treatment. One of the special interests is understanding the liver-gut axis and especially the role of bile acids in the progression of NAFLD. Farnesoid X receptor (FXR)-agonists have been approved und used in other liver diseases, such as primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) and primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), and have shown signs of being able to decrease inflammation and potentially steatosis. This review will mainly focus on targets/ligands that play an important role in bile acid metabolism and give an overview of ongoing clinical as well as pre-clinical trials. With the complexity of the issue, we did not aim at giving a complete review, rather highlighting important targets and potential treatments that could be approved for NAFLD/NASH treatment within the next few years.

Keywords: NAFLD/NASH therapy; OCA; UDCA; bile acid metabolism; bile acids; gut-liver axis; lipid metabolism.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism*
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / etiology*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / metabolism
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / pathology


  • Bile Acids and Salts