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 more than 600 case reports, patient information, and a database of more than 1,100 drugs and supplements.
In addition, NIDDK provides public inquiry response services and health information about liver disease to people with liver disease and to their families, health professionals, and the public.
Research Updates and News
- New biomarker to diagnose life-threatening liver disease in children
- NIH study sheds light on immune responses driving obesity-induced liver disease
- Improved outcomes and survival following acute liver failure in recent years
- Story of Discovery: Hepatitis C: from non-A, non-B hepatitis to a cure
- Plant toxins linked to biliary atresia in newborn animals
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
- Autonomic Nervous System: Role in the Regulation of Peripheral Metabolism and Pathophysiology of Metabolic Disease
Strategic Plans & Reports
- NIDDK Recent Advances & Emerging Opportunities 2018
- NIDDK Recent Advances & Emerging Opportunities 2017
- NIDDK Recent Advances & Emerging Opportunities 2016
- Opportunities & Challenges in Digestive Diseases Research: Recommendations of the National Commission on Digestive Diseases
- The Burden of Digestive Diseases in the United States
Provide Access to Research Resources
NIDDK makes publicly supported resources, data sets, and studies available to researchers.View all Research Resources