Background: Alcoholic liver disease is one of the most important causes of chronic liver disease in this country. There is currently no treatment for chronic alcoholic liver disease other than abstinence. Hepatic methionine metabolism is abnormal in these patients and one of the consequences is depletion of S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) levels, which can affect numerous important cellular processes. SAMe has been increasingly utilized for the treatment of liver diseases although the protective mechanisms remain unclear. A recent randomized double-blind trial using SAMe in patients with alcoholic liver disease and found improvement in 2-year survival in those with less advanced liver disease. However, important changes in methionine metabolism and histological changes were not included in the study.
Aim : The goal of this study is to determine the effect of SAMe administration on key metabolic abnormalities of the methionine cycle and on the recovery from alcoholic liver disease. Methods: This is a randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial. Thirty patients with stable alcoholic hepatitis (Maddrey Score < 32) without cirrhosis who meet entry criteria will receive either 400 mg of SAMe (n=15) or placebo (n=15) three times a day for the duration of one year. History, physical assessment, various blood tests and a liver biopsy will be performed prior to treatment. Patients will have repeat blood tests on subsequent follow-up visits every month for the first two months, then every two months thereafter. They will also be encouraged to abstain from alcohol during these visits. A post-treatment liver biopsy will be obtained at the end of the trial. The primary outcome parameters include serum homocysteine, SAMe and TNFalpha levels, and the expression of key hepatic enzymes of the methionine cycle and of hepatic SAMe and glutathione levels. Histological progression of alcoholic liver disease, clinical and biochemical indices of liver disease, and quality of life assessment will also be examined.