A PIONEERING project led by researchers from the North-East aims to create new tests to assess patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and identify those most at risk for developing severe inflammation and liver scarring.

The Newcastle University scheme brings together clinicians and scientists from prominent academic centres across Europe with companies from the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).

Their common goals are developing, validating and qualifying better biomarkers for testing the condition.

The university is co-ordinating the project, which includes 47 research partners based at leading international universities and some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease affects 20 to 30 per cent of the population and is caused by a build-up of fat in the liver cells, which leads to inflammation, scarring of the liver and ultimately cirrhosis.

It is strongly linked to obesity and type two diabetes.

Professor Quentin Anstee, from Newcastle University, said: “Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is already the most common underlying cause of liver transplant in the USA and, with the obesity epidemic in Europe, we are very close behind.

“Lack of easy and accurate diagnostic tests means that many patients go undiagnosed until late in the disease process. Better diagnostic tests will help us to target care at an early stage of the disease.”