The focus of liver and biliary disease research in the United States through 2015 has been set with the release of the National Institutes of Health's Action Plan for Liver Disease Research.
The decade-long initiative is the result of coordinated effort between federal health agencies and the 18 institutes, centers, and offices in the NIH that support liver and biliary disease research. The plan is geared toward the rapid translation of findings from basic research to clinical practice, and vice versa.
Employees of NIH and federal agencies developed the plan with help from extramural researchers, physicians, and representatives of professional and patient advocacy groups.
The action plan includes 214 research goals, but 10 major goals cut across multiple disciplines in liver and biliary disease research:
▸ Improve the success rate of therapy for chronic hepatitis C.
▸ Develop effective antiviral therapy regimens for the long-term management of chronic hepatitis B.
▸ Develop effective therapies for the treatment of nonalcoholic and alcoholic fatty liver disease.
▸ Detect hepatic fibrosis with tests that are sensitive, specific, and noninvasive.
▸ Detect hepatocellular carcinoma at earlier stages in high-risk patients with new screening tests.
▸ Develop ways to prevent gallstones.
▸ Understand further the etiology of biliary atresia.
▸ Improve the safety, and determine the best use, of living donor liver transplantation.
▸ Develop standardized and objective diagnostic criteria of major liver diseases and their grading and staging.
▸ Reduce the overall mortality from chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.
In the plan, each research goal is rated according to whether it is a short- (1–3 years), medium- (4–6 years), or long-term (7–10 years) goal and whether the degree of difficulty of reaching the goal involves high, intermediate, or low risk.
The Liver Disease Subcommittee of the statutory Digestive Diseases Interagency Coordinating Committee will assess the plan through announcements and periodic meetings, including open meetings after 5 and 10 years.
NIH's investment in liver and biliary disease research has increased from about $125 million in 1993 to $388 million in 2003.
To review the full action plan, go to www.niddk.nih.gov/fund/divisions/ddn/ldrb/ldrb_action_plan.htm