1Nutrition and Metabolism, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, U.K.
2National Institute for Health and Care Research, Southampton Biomedical Research Centre, University Hospital Southampton, Southampton, U.K.
3Clinical and Experimental Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Southampton, Southampton, U.K.
In the last 20 years, noninvasive serum biomarkers to identify liver fibrosis in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) have been developed, validated against liver biopsy (the gold standard for determining the presence of liver fibrosis) and made available for clinicians to use to identify ≥F3 liver fibrosis. The aim of this review is firstly to focus on the current use of widely available biomarkers and their performance for identifying ≥F3. Secondly, we discuss whether noninvasive biomarkers have a role in identifying F2, a stage of fibrosis that is now known to be a risk factor for cirrhosis and overall mortality. We also consider whether machine learning algorithms offer a better alternative for identifying individuals with ≥F2 fibrosis. Thirdly, we summarise the utility of noninvasive serum biomarkers for predicting liver related outcomes (e.g. ascites and hepatocellular carcinoma) and non-liver related outcomes (e.g. cardiovascular-related mortality and extra hepatic cancers). Finally, we examine whether serial measurement of biomarkers can be used to monitor liver disease, and whether the use of noninvasive biomarkers in drug trials for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) can accurately, (compared to liver histology), monitor liver fibrosis progression/regression. We conclude by offering our perspective on the future of serum biomarkers for the detection and monitoring of liver fibrosis in NAFLD.