New research has indicated that 4.8% of the UK population have elevated liver iron. The University of Westminster and Perspectum Diagnostics study used MRI to non-invasively assess levels of liver iron.
The University of Westminster is a public university in London, formerly known as the Royal Polytechnic Institution, which was founded in 1838 and was the first polytechnic in the UK. Westminster was awarded university status in 1992 meaning it could award its own degrees.
Perspectum Diagnostics is an Oxford, UK based company founded in 2012, in partnership with the University of Oxford, that delivers digital technologies to help clinicians provide better care for patients with liver disease. Their vision is to empower patients and clinicians through greater understanding of liver disease, enabling early detection, diagnosis and targeted treatment.
The development of robust, widely available and non-invasive techniques for the measurement of liver iron was needed. The study used the quantitative MRI behind Perspectum Diagnostics’ LiverMultiScan to safely and painlessly assess liver health.
The researchers studied the burden of liver disease from excess fat and iron storage within the UK Biobank population. Over 20% had excess fat in their livers, and 4.8% had elevated liver iron levels, with 1.3% having elevated levels of both fat and iron.
The numbers of individuals with abnormal levels for these two key risk factors of significant liver disease are considerable and represent potentially 2 million NHS patients. According to Perspectum Diagnostics the UK health system is under-prepared for the “current liver disease epidemic”.
Iron overload is traditionally associated with genetic disorders such as hereditary haemochromatosis or as a result of repeated blood transfusions. Elevated liver iron is also associated with metabolic diseases including insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Elevated liver iron is associated with the development of fibrosis and cirrhosis and thought to be involved in the progression from fibrosis to liver cancer.
“Haemochromatosis is a chronic genetic iron overload condition that can be fatal if undetected and untreated. Haemochromatosis UK (HUK) is delighted to see that new and non-invasive ways of detecting iron overload are breaking through and beginning to make a positive difference to the burden on the public at risk and the NHS”.
“Perspectum’s Biobank study supports what we at HUK have long believed to be true; there are potentially many people across the UK with iron overload which is currently undetected, may be caused by haemochromatosis, and is likely to be negatively impacting quality of life. The potential that LiverMultiScan has to offer these people cannot be underestimated; a more accurate diagnosis, the avoidance of invasive testing and a quicker route to treatment so they can begin to manage their iron overload rather than being totally unaware that it could be the cause of a series of underlying health problems.” – Corrina Towers, Chair, Haemochromatosis UK