We proudly present the PhD Student of the Month July 2020, Benedikt Simbrunner, who is enrolled in the N790 programme „Clinical Endocrinology, Metabolism and Nutrition“ and works in Thomas Reiberger’s group at the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Medicine III.
Within the „Vienna Liver Study Groups“, Benedikt and his colleagues focus on translational and clinical research projects in the field of liver disease. Main areas of their research comprise advanced chronic liver disease (ACLD, i.e. liver cirrhosis), portal hypertension and its complications, liver inflammation and fibrosis, viral hepatitis, rare liver diseases and novel imaging methods (e.g. elastography). Benedikt’s work already led to various publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals, most importantly a paper on the enhanced liver fibrosis (ELF) score and its value for the non-invasive detection of portal hypertension (PHT) which was published in the top-ranked journal Liver International.
Within his thesis project, Benedikt investigates the impact of FXR-FGF19 signaling on advanced chronic liver disease and portal hypertension. Experimental evidence suggests that activation of farnesoid X receptor (FXR) improves gut mucosal barrier and antimicrobial defense, thus, decreasing bacterial translocation. Importantly, intestinal FXR activation induces transcription of fibroblast growth factor 19 (FGF19), which is secreted into the portal venous system and regulates metabolic and inflammatory pathways in hepatocytes. Bacterial translocation and associated systemic inflammation/infections have a detrimental impact on the course of advanced chronic liver disease (ACLD), which is commonly referred to as “gut-liver-axis”. The aim of Benedikt’s translational research project is to elucidate the applicability and relevance of gut-liver-signaling, focusing on the FXR-FGF19 pathway in humans with ACLD and portal hypertension.