Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences
Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences

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OSU-CHS News > 2016

Jan. 7, 2016

OSU-CHS researcher to study effects of lipoic acid on terminal liver disease


Martin Banschbach, Ph.D., professor of biochemistry at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, wants to find out whether injections of a natural antioxidant improve liver function in patients diagnosed with terminal liver disease.

He is seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval to launch a research project in partnership with Burton Berkson, M.D., Ph.D., a New Mexico integrative medicine physician who has long studied the use of lipoic acid to reduce diabetic neuropathy and restore liver function.

“We have patients on transplant lists because current medicine is not capable of restoring liver function. We only have the option of replacing the liver,” said Banschbach. “Dr. Berkson thinks that by injecting lipoic acid in these patients, liver function can be restored. He is seeing this in his patients.”

Banschbach is seeking FDA approval to enroll terminal liver disease patients at OSU Physicians Clinics in the study to determine if lipoic acid therapy restores liver function.

“The problem with what is sometimes called alternative medicine is we have no documentation that what is being used really has any efficacy,” he said. “This study could provide scientific data to support anecdotal evidence.”

Specifically, Banschbach said the study would target participants who have terminal liver disease due to alcohol abuse and who are on the liver transplant list to undergo a series of lipoic acid injections.

Lipoic acid, also known as alpha lipoic acid, is a naturally occurring compound in the human body that acts as an antioxidant.

“The general feeling has been that if humans can synthesize something, there is no reason to give them something extra,” Banschbach said. “We think differently.”

In a previous study, the FDA gave Berkson permission to use lipoic acid as an investigational drug for the treatment of diabetic neuropathy.

“Lipoic acid is one of the compounds in our bodies that help us deal with inflammation. We suspect the damage occurring in the peripheral nerves is an inflammatory process. Dr. Berkson published several papers showing it was effective in taking away nerve pain and damage,” Banschbach said. “We are hopeful that lipoic acid will be successful in restoring liver function among those who otherwise would die from liver failure.”

Learn more about research at OSU-CHS at the Research Spotlight website.

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