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Faculty & Staff Honors

East Tennessee Professor Receives Federal Funding to Research Treatment for Liver Disease

Dr. Jonathan Peterson, an assistant professor of Health Sciences at East Tennessee State University’s College of Public Health, recently garnered a federal grant he hopes will help lead to a treatment to prevent cirrhosis of the liver.

The $163,000 in funding from the National Institutes of Health will allow Peterson to spend the next two years studying the impact of a specific protein on fat collection in the liver. In 2010, Peterson originally began researching the protein known as CTRP3 and its effect on non-alcoholic liver disease and how it relates to diabetes and obesity issues.

“I was looking at how tissues talk to each other to regulate glucose in the blood,” Dr. Peterson said. “We discovered a CTRP3 has a real protective effect on the liver. It actually prevented high-fat, diet-induced accumulation in the liver.”

His research turned to alcoholic liver disease when, through an ETSU Research Development Committee grant he received last year, Peterson discovered that CTRP3 levels were lower after alcohol consumption.

“Now we want to see if it has the same effect with alcohol consumption, which is the other way fat collects on the liver,” said Peterson, a member of ETSU’s Center of Excellence for Inflammation, Infectious Disease and Immunity. “Alcoholic fatty liver accounts for 50 percent of cirrhosis, which is the twelfth largest killer in the country.”

Through his latest research, Dr. Peterson’s goal is to identify the potential role of the CTRP3 protein as a therapeutic target to prevent and treat alcoholic fatty liver disease.

“It’s something that is already in the body that we can take advantage of to treat the disease,” he explained. “There are no pharmaceutical treatments currently available to treat fatty liver disease. This would have a major impact on lowering the mortality risk – if it works.”