Frank A. Anania, MD
Dr. Anania's research focuses on mechanisms in development of liver fibrosis. He has become a nationally recognized stellate cell biologist. The hepatic stellate cell is the non-parenchymal cell responsible for extracellular matrix production. In health this cell type is quiescent and inactive; however, upon stimuli from injury, the cell becomes activated. The activation process results in a marked increase in mitosis, transcriptional activation of key genes, and a marked resistance to apoptosis. After becoming independent, Dr. Anania made the unique observation that leptin is produced by activated stellate cells but not in quiescent cells. Since then Dr. Anania has performed extensive research exploring the unique roles of leptin and more recently adiponectin in the fundamental biologic properties of hepatic stellate cell activation and perpetuation of this phenotype. His discovery that leptin is absolutely required for hepatic fibrosis has been lauded internationally. Dr. Anania’s recent observations demonstrating that adiponectin has potential to impede hepatic fibrosis by direct inhibition of stellate cell mitosis, promotes stellate cell apoptosis, and reduces production of smooth muscle proteins, has tremendous therapeutic potential. A recent project that Dr. Anania has developed since his arrival at Emory University focuses on the gut peptide, glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), for treatment of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In particular he has written another NIH R01 to test the novel hypothesis that GLP-1-like proteins act directly to reduce triglyceride biosynthesis in hepatocytes — a key pathologic feature of NAFLD. The data his laboratory has assembled for this project is quite compelling.