1Department of Medicine, Mount Sinai Israel, New York, NY, USA.
2Division of Liver Diseases, Department of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, NY, USA.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) encompasses a spectrum of fatty liver disease, including non-alcoholic fatty liver (NAFL) and its more progressive form, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The prevalence of NAFLD/NASH along with type 2 diabetes and obesity is rising worldwide. In those who develop NASH, unlike those with bland steatosis (NAFL), lipotoxic lipids drive hepatocyte injury, inflammation and stellate cell activation leading to progressive accumulation of collagen or fibrosis, ultimately leading to cirrhosis and increased risk of hepatocellular carcinoma. Hypothyroidism is associated with NAFLD/NASH; specifically, intrahepatic hypothyroidism drives lipotoxicty in preclinical models. Agonists of thyroid hormone receptor (THR)-β, which is primarily found in the liver, can promote lipophagy, mitochondrial biogenesis and mitophagy, stimulating increased hepatic fatty acid β-oxidation, and thereby decreasing the burden of lipotoxic lipids, while promoting low-density lipoprotein (LDL) uptake and favourable effects on lipid profiles. A number of THR-β agonists are currently being investigated for NASH. This review focuses on resmetirom, an orally administered, once-daily, small-molecule, liver-directed, ß-selective THR agonist, as it is furthest along in development. Data from completed clincal studies outlined in this review demonstrate that resmetirom is effective in reducing hepatic fat content as measured by magnetic resonance imaging-derived proton density fat fraction, reduces liver enzymes, improves non-i nvasive markers of liver fibrogenesis and decreases liver stiffness, while eliciting a favourable cardiovascular profile with a reduction in serum lipids, including LDL cholesterol. Topline phase III biopsy data showed resolution of NASH and/or fibrosis improvement after 52 weeks of treatment, with more detailed peer-reviewed findings anticipated in order to certify these findings. Longer term clinical outcomes from both MAESTRO-NASH and MAESTRO-NASH OUTCOMES will be a pivotal juncture in the drug's road towards being approved as a NASH therapeutic.