Biliary Atresia: Clinical and Research Challenges for the Twenty-First Century

Jorge A. Bezerra, Rebecca G. Wells, Cara L. Mack, Saul J. Karpen, Jay H. Hoofnagle, Edward Doo, Ronald J. Sokol

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


Biliary atresia (BA) is a fibroinflammatory disease of the intrahepatic and extrahepatic biliary tree. Surgical hepatic portoenterostomy (HPE) may restore bile drainage, but progression of the intrahepatic disease results in complications of portal hypertension and advanced cirrhosis in most children. Recognizing that further progress in the field is unlikely without a better understanding of the underlying cause(s) and pathogenesis of the disease, the National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) sponsored a research workshop focused on innovative and promising approaches and on identifying future areas of research. Investigators discussed recent advances using gestational ultrasound and results of newborn BA screening with serum direct (conjugated) bilirubin that support a prenatal onset of biliary injury. Experimental and human studies implicate the toxic properties of environmental toxins (e.g., biliatresone) and of viruses (e.g., cytomegalovirus) to the biliary system. Among host factors, sequence variants in genes related to biliary development and ciliopathies, a notable lack of a cholangiocyte glycocalyx and of submucosal collagen bundles in the neonatal extrahepatic bile ducts, and an innate proinflammatory bias of the neonatal immune system contribute to an increased susceptibility to damage and obstruction following epithelial injury. These advances form the foundation for a future research agenda focused on identifying the environmental and host factor(s) that cause BA, the potential use of population screening, studies of the mechanisms of prominent fibrosis in young infants, determinations of clinical surrogates of disease progression, and the design of clinical trials that target subgroups of patients with initial drainage following HPE. (Hepatology 2018; 00:000-000).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1163-1173
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology


Dive into the research topics of 'Biliary Atresia: Clinical and Research Challenges for the Twenty-First Century'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this