Feline hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease, is a severe liver disease that can affect cats of any breed and age. It occurs when cats stop eating, for example due to severe illness. Because cats have specific nutrient requirements, fasting will quickly initiate the breakdown of fat stores to provide the necessary energy. Obesity and insulin-resistance predispose for feline hepatic lipidosis. Breakdown of fat stores releases free fatty acids that are shuttled to the liver, where they can enter different metabolic pathways. However, in feline liver cells these metabolic pathways are quickly saturated and lipids will accumulate within the cell as lipid droplets, which is called hepatic lipidosis. Lipidosis severely disturbs liver function and leads to liver failure and death if left untreated.
Unfortunately, curative treatment options for hepatic lipidosis do not exist and treatment now focuses on restoring caloric intake by force-feeding the cat. However, this is not sufficient for many cats. These investigators aim to test drugs that can directly interfere with fat metabolism in feline liver cells, shifting the balance towards utilization rather than local storage of lipids. They have developed a liver cell culture system for cats, called liver organoids, with potential to study and interfere with hepatic lipidosis in the lab. They now would like to test several candidate drugs in feline liver cells exposed to free fatty acids, without the need for animal testing but with great predictive value for activity in cats with hepatic lipidosis.