Publication Date



JHEP Reports


BACKGROUND & AIMS: Clinical trials for reducing fibrosis in steatotic liver disease (SLD) have targeted macrophages with variable results. We evaluated intrahepatic macrophages in patients with SLD to determine if activity scores or fibrosis stages influenced phenotypes and expression of druggable targets, such as CCR2 and galectin-3.

METHODS: Liver biopsies from controls or patients with minimal or advanced fibrosis were subject to gene expression analysis using nCounter to determine differences in macrophage-related genes (n = 30). To investigate variability among individual patients, we compared additional biopsies by staining them with multiplex antibody panels (CD68/CD14/CD16/CD163/Mac387 or CD163/CCR2/galectin-3/Mac387) followed by spectral imaging and spatial analysis. Algorithms that utilize deep learning/artificial intelligence were applied to create cell cluster plots, phenotype profile maps, and to determine levels of protein expression (n = 34).

RESULTS: Several genes known to be pro-fibrotic (

CONCLUSIONS: Patients with SLD have markedly varied macrophage- and druggable target-related gene and protein expression in their livers. Several patients had relatively high expression, while others were like controls. Overall, patients with more advanced disease had significantly higher expression of CCR2 and galectin-3 at both the gene and protein levels.

IMPACT AND IMPLICATIONS: Appreciating individual differences within the hepatic microenvironment of patients with SLD may be paramount to developing effective treatments. These results may explain why such a small percentage of patients have responded to macrophage-targeting therapies and provide additional support for precision medicine-guided treatment of chronic liver diseases.


Cardiometabolic risk factors, Chemokines, Infiltrating monocytes, Inflammation, MASLD, Multispectral imaging, NanoString nCounter, Visiopharm



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