Objective The race for finding effective treatments for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has been slowed down by the high screen-failure rate for including patients in trials due to the lack of a noninvasive biomarker that can identify patients with significant disease. Recently, Wisteria floribunda agglutinin-positive Mac-2-binding protein (WFA+ -M2BP) has shown promise in predicting liver fibrosis. The aims of this study were to evaluate the utility of WFA+ -M2BP as a biomarker to sub-classify patients with NAFLD according to their disease severity and to assess its correlation with histologic features of NAFLD. Methods Patients undergoing biopsy for clinical suspicion of NAFLD and healthy controls were included. Patients with NAFLD were classified into: NAFL, early NASH (F0-F1), fibrotic NASH (F2-F3), and NASH cirrhosis (F4). Levels of WFA+ -M2BP in sera was measured by a HISCL™ M2BPGi™ assay kit using an automated immunoanalyzer (HISCL™-800; Sysmex, Kobe, Japan). Analysis of covariance was used to assess difference in WFA+ -M2BP between the groups and Spearman’s correlation coefficients were used to assess correlation with histological features. Results Our cohort consisted of 20 healthy controls and 198 patients with biopsy-proven NAFLD divided as follows: 52 with NAFL, 62 with early NASH, 52 with fibrotic NASH, and 32 with NASH cirrhosis. WFA+ -M2BP level was found to be significantly increased in the fibrotic NASH and NASH cirrhosis groups compared to healthy controls and those with early NAFLD after adjusting for age, gender and BMI. Furthermore, patients with NASH cirrhosis had significantly higher WFA+ -M2BP levels (2.4[1.5, 4.2] C.O.I (Cut-off Index)) than those with fibrotic NASH (1.2[0.79, 1.9]), p < 0.001. WFA+ -M2BP level had moderate correlation with inflammation, ballooning and NAFLD activity score and strong correlation with fibrosis stage. Additionally, ROC curve analysis demonstrated that WFA+ -M2BP accurately differentiated F2-4 from F0-F1. Conclusion In a large cohort of patients with the full spectrum of NAFLD, WFA+ -M2BP levels predicted the presence of advanced disease and correlated strongly with fibrosis stage.
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