TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - A team of researchers at the University of Toledo are conducting a ground-breaking study into how algae may affect one of our vital organs.
Right now, researchers are using mice as a model to study how microcystin attacks the liver.
They say the mice were given about 15 doses of microcystin. So far, research has shown that the toxin attacks the liver in mice and plays a direct role in enhancing preexisting liver disease.
The study has not been done on humans, but doctors believe it would have the same effect.
"What our study found out is that microcystin is one of those things that can cause the progression from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease into these more damaging and irreversible liver diseases," said Dr. David Kennedy. "My hypothesis is that people who have preexisting liver disease would be at increased risk to the damaging effects of microcystin, but that still remains to be determined."
It's research that could help many in Northwest Ohio, as a third of the people living in our area have liver disease.
According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity is also a major risk factor for the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which causes the organ to swell with fat. Unchecked, the disease can lead to liver failure and the need for a transplant.
"If you are diagnosed, you can perform diet and exercise and modifications that can help reduce that. There are also some medications that can be used," said Dr. Kennedy.
UT researchers say some weight loss supplements actually contain harmful algae toxins, so you should make sure you check the ingredients before taking them.
Doctors say the next step in the study is to apply for grant money so they can further their research.