, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 399-408

Animal Models in the Study of Episodic Hepatic Encephalopathy in Cirrhosis

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The availability of an animal model is crucial in studying the pathophysiological mechanisms of disease and to test possible therapies. Now, there are several models for the study of liver diseases, but there still remains a lack of a satisfactory animal model of chronic liver disease with hepatic encephalopathy (HE) and abnormalities in nitrogen metabolism, as seen in humans. In rats, two models of chronic HE are widely used: rats after portacaval anastomosis (PCA) and rats with chronic hyperammonemia. The first one mimics the situation induced in cirrhosis by collateral circulation, and has the problem of the absence of hepatocellular injury. The model of hyperammonemia is useful to study the effect of ammonia as a brain toxic substance, but also lacks liver failure. Bile-duct ligation has been used to induce cirrhosis and could also be a model of HE, probably with the addition of a precipitant factor. An ideal model of HE in chronic liver disease must have liver cirrhosis and a precipitant factor of HE; it must also show neuropathological characteristic findings of HE, neurochemical alterations in the main pathways impaired in these complications of cirrhosis, and low-grade brain edema.