Network Modeling Approaches and Applications to Unravelling Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Genes (Basel). 2019 Nov 24;10(12):966. doi: 10.3390/genes10120966.


Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a progressive condition of the liver encompassing a range of pathologies including steatosis, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. Research into this disease is imperative due to its rapid growth in prevalence, economic burden, and current lack of FDA approved therapies. NAFLD involves a highly complex etiology that calls for multi-tissue multi-omics network approaches to uncover the pathogenic genes and processes, diagnostic biomarkers, and potential therapeutic strategies. In this review, we first present a basic overview of disease pathogenesis, risk factors, and remaining knowledge gaps, followed by discussions of the need and concepts of multi-tissue multi-omics approaches, various network methodologies and application examples in NAFLD research. We highlight the findings that have been uncovered thus far including novel biomarkers, genes, and biological pathways involved in different stages of NAFLD, molecular connections between NAFLD and its comorbidities, mechanisms underpinning sex differences, and druggable targets. Lastly, we outline the future directions of implementing network approaches to further improve our understanding of NAFLD in order to guide diagnosis and therapeutics.

Keywords: NAFLD; NASH; integrative genomics; multi-omics; network modeling; steatosis; systems biology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Regulatory Networks
  • Genomics
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / genetics*
  • Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease / metabolism*