Vibrational signatures to discriminate liver steatosis grades
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a frequent lesion associated with obesity, diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. The hallmark feature of fatty liver disease is steatosis, which is the intra-cellular accumulation of lipids resulting in the formation of vesicles in hepatocytes. Steatosis is a precursor of steatohepatitis, a condition that may progress to hepatic fibrosis, cirrhosis and primary liver cancer. We addressed the potential of Fourier transform-infrared (FTIR) microspectroscopy for grading steatosis on frozen tissue sections. The use of the bright infrared source emitted by synchrotron radiation (SR) allowed the investigation of the biochemical composition at the cellular level. The variance in the huge number of spectra acquired was addressed by principal component analysis (PCA). The study demonstrated that the progression of steatosis corresponds not only to the accumulation of lipids but also to dramatic changes in the qualitative composition of the tissue. Indeed, a lower grade of steatosis showed a decrease in glycogen content and a concomitant increase in lipids in comparison with normal liver. Intermediate steatosis exhibited an increase in glycogen and major changes in lipids, with a significant contribution of esterified fatty acids with elongated carbon chains and unsaturated lipids, and these features were more pronounced in a high grade of steatosis. Furthermore, the approach allows a systematic discrimination of morphological features, leading to a separate investigation of steatotic vesicles and the non-steatotic counterpart of the tissue. This highlighted the fact that dramatic biochemical changes occur in the non-steatotic part of the tissue also despite its normal histological aspect, suggesting that the whole tissue reflects the grade of steatosis.