Center for Clinical & Translational Science, Creighton University School of Medicine, Omaha, NE 68178, USA.
The prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is rising worldwide with the increasing incidence of obesity, Type 2 diabetes mellitus and metabolic syndrome. NASH is currently one of the most common indications of liver transplantation in the United States. The immune system plays a major role in the pathogenesis of NAFLD/NASH. The metabolic changes, associated with obesity and metabolic syndrome, induce immunological responses resulting in NAFLD and further aggravation of the metabolic derangement in a feed-forward loop. Genetic and endocrine factors modulate the immunological and metabolic responses and determine the pathophysiological features of NAFLD. Histologically, NAFLD is a spectrum that ranges from simple hepatic steatosis to severe steatohepatitis, liver cirrhosis and/or hepatocellular carcinoma. Liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma are responsible for the morbidity and mortality of the disease. This article is a critical evaluation of our current knowledge of the immunological and molecular basis of the disease.