Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) ranges in severity from steatosis to NASH. NASH, which is characterized by steatosis, ballooning, inflammation (NAFLD Activity Score [NAS]), and frequently fibrosis, can progress to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. Despite the unmet medical needs of NASH leading to end stage liver disease and increased risk for cardiovascular death, there are no approved treatments to date. In clinical trials, pioglitazone treatment (6-24 months) has led to NASH resolution and/or reduction in fibrosis. We developed a cynomolgus monkey (cyno) model of NASH by feeding a high fat/cholesterol diet for 2+ years and demonstrated accelerated disease progression by adding fructose to this diet. A total of 31 obese (mean±SD, 10.4±1.8 kg), insulin resistant (HOMA-IR: 29±32) cynos with NASH were used. Histological assessments of liver biopsies were used to characterize disease progression and response to therapy and compared to human studies. Baseline NAS of 5.6±0.9 was similar to those in NASH patients, whereas baseline fibrosis scores of 1.2±0.5 were slightly lower than values of ∼2 typically enrolled in Phase 2 trials. Cynos were treated daily with vehicle (n=10) or pioglitazone (3 mg/kg; n=21) for 6 months. Drug exposures 24 hours post-dose averaged 233±145 ng/mL, similar to that seen in humans (∼200 ng/mL) dosed with 45 mg. Adiponectin, a biomarker for PPARγ activation, increased ∼2-fold in treated cynos. NAS improvement (a decrease in NAS of ≥2 with changes in 2 or more components of NAS) was seen in 30% of treated cynos (p=0.08). No vehicle animals showed NAS improvement. Treated cynos showed significant decreases in ballooning, trends in decreases (p=0.07) in steatosis and inflammation, but no change in fibrosis whereas vehicle animals showed no changes or worsening. We have validated and benchmarked a novel cyno model for NASH that has characteristics similar to human pathology and responds to a treatment known to improve NASH in clinical trials.
R. Camacho: Employee; Self; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. D. Polidori: Employee; Self; Janssen Research and Development. Stock/Shareholder; Self; Janssen Research and Development. T. Chen: Employee; Self; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. B. Gao: Employee; Self; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. P. Wong: Employee; Self; Johnson & Johnson. Stock/Shareholder; Self; Merck & Co., Inc. J.A. Gabriel: Employee; Self; Kunming Biomed International (KBI). E. Zhu: None. T. Wang: None. A.R. Nawrocki: Employee; Self; Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.