The liver performs many critical metabolic functions, including processing and distribution of nutrients. Liver diseases can be caused by infection, such as hepatitis B and C, or by genetic mutations. Other liver diseases can be triggered by autoimmune reactions or drug toxicity. The rise in obesity in the United States has led to a rise in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Many liver diseases place individuals at higher risk for developing liver cancer.
The only current treatment for end-stage liver disease is a liver transplant, and the number of livers available from deceased donors is limited. Thus NIDDK-supported liver research focuses on identifying liver disease early, preserving liver function in people with liver disease, and developing new treatment options, including transplants performed with liver tissue from living donors.
Other NIDDK-funded research is investigating the role gut microbes may play in the progression of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and in understanding how the body’s natural killer T cells can activate an immune response to hepatitis B.
In a collaborative effort with the National Library of Medicine, NIDDK has developed LiverTox, an online resource for drug-induced liver injury, providing a “living textbook” with hundreds of case reports, patient information, and a database of over a thousand drugs and supplements.
In addition, NIDDK responds to questions and provides health information about liver disease to people with liver disease and to their families, health professionals, and the public.
Research Updates and News
- Scientists triple storage time of human donor livers
- Study identifies gene variants associated with biliary atresia splenic malformation syndrome in children
- Genetic variant linked to drug-induced liver injury
- NIH study finds gut microbiome can control antitumor immune function in liver
- Uncovering the Genetic Basis for Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis
Select Landmark Studies
What We Do
To achieve its mission, NIDDK supports, conducts, coordinates, and plans research. NIDDK also provides data and samples from NIDDK-funded studies and explains research findings to health professionals and the public.
NIDDK invests in basic, clinical and translational research and training at colleges, universities and other institutions.
- Digestive Diseases Research Core Centers
- Gastrointestinal, Nutrition, and Liver Research in HIV/AIDS
- Liver Clinical Research and Epidemiology
- Liver Diseases Genetics and Genomics
- Translational and Basic Liver Disease Research
Coordinate & Plan Research
NIDDK takes multiple approaches to research planning and priority setting.
Meetings & Workshops
- Alcoholic and Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis: Pathogenesis and Mechanisms of Liver Injury Joint NIAAA-NIDDK Research Workshop
- Sensory Nutrition and Disease Workshop
Strategic Plans & Reports
- NIDDK Recent Advances & Emerging Opportunities 2019
- Opportunities & Challenges in Digestive Diseases Research: Recommendations of the National Commission on Digestive Diseases
- The Burden of Digestive Diseases in the United States
- Action Plan for Liver Disease Research
Provide Access to Research Resources
NIDDK makes publicly supported resources, data sets, and studies available to researchers.View all Research Resources