Michelle T. Long, MD, assistant professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and a gastroenterologist at Boston Medical Center (BMC), recently was a awarded nearly $1 million dollars from the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The five-year grant will continue to fund her research on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).
In her previous studies, Long has used computed tomography scan to measure the association between NAFLD and physical activity and NAFLD and sub-clinical measures of cardiovascular disease (CVD) among participants of the Framingham Heart Study (FHS). Her work in this area has resulted in six first author publications, including the development and validation of a simple clinical diagnostic score for hepatic steatosis called the Framingham Steatosis Index.
NAFLD-associated hepatic fibrosis is an important public health problem. More than 15 million Americans are estimated to suffer from hepatic fibrosis from NAFLD, which worsens metabolic disease and increases the risk of liver-related and CVD-related death. To date, studies examining NAFLD in community-based cohorts in the United States have relied on imaging modalities that are insensitive to hepatic fibrosis.
Long’s newly funded research will focus on the clinical and genetic traits associated with hepatic fibrosis in approximately 3,500 FHS Third Generation and OMNI 2 cohort participants who are undergoing evaluation for hepatic fibrosis using vibration-controlled transient elastography (VCTE). “My hope is that this research will lead to better insights into disease mechanisms, biomarker development and ultimately new therapeutic targets to prevent disease progression and improve public health outcomes,” said Long.
Long’s interest in NAFLD began during her residency at Massachusetts General Hospital. During her Gastroenterology Fellowship at BMC, she completed a research fellowship at the FHS where she worked on a number of projects involving measurements of hepatic fat and other ectopic fat depots on computed tomography.
The NIDDK conducts, supports, and coordinates research on many of the most serious diseases affecting public health. The Institute supports clinical research on the diseases of internal medicine and related subspecialty fields, as well as many basic science disciplines.