Generation 2+ LICA antisense drug
ION224 is a Generation 2+ ligand-conjugated antisense (LICA) drug designed to reduce the production of DGAT2, or diacylglycerol acyltransferase 2, to treat patients with NASH, or nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. NASH is a common liver disease characterized by excessive triglycerides in the liver with concurrent inflammation and cellular damage. DGAT2 is an enzyme that catalyzes the final step in triglyceride synthesis in the liver. Reducing the production of DGAT2 should therefore decrease triglyceride synthesis in the liver. In animal studies, antisense inhibition of DGAT2 significantly improved liver steatosis, lowered blood lipid levels and reversed diet-induced insulin resistance in animal models of obesity and fatty liver disease. [3,5]
NASH is sometimes considered a “silent” liver disease because people with early-stage NASH feel well, even though they are starting to accumulate fat in their livers, and may not be aware that they have the disease. However, NASH can develop into more severe diseases such as liver cirrhosis and liver failure. Currently, liver transplant is the only therapeutic option for patients with liver cirrhosis. In addition, NASH has been shown to be a major risk factor for the development of liver cancer.
NASH is a liver disease characterized by the presence of excessive liver fat (steatosis) that is accompanied by inflammation and cellular damage. NASH is considered a “silent” liver disease because in the early stages of the disease, patients generally feel well and are unaware they have the disease. However, as NASH progresses, scarring, or fibrosis, begins to accumulate in the liver. Ultimately, cirrhosis of the liver develops and the liver can no longer function normally. About 20 percent of NASH patients are reported to develop cirrhosis, and 30 to 40 percent of patients with NASH cirrhosis experience liver-related death.  Currently, liver transplantation is the only treatment for advanced cirrhosis and liver failure. Because of the high prevalence of NASH, it has recently become the third most common indication for liver transplantation in the US.  The exact cause of NASH is not well understood but the development of fatty liver diseases has been linked to obesity. As the number of people with obesity continues to rise globally, a parallel increase in the incidence of NASH has also been observed. Currently, it is estimated that 2 to 3 percent of the general population have NASH.  However, with the growing obesity epidemic, it is likely that the number of patients with NASH will also continue to rise.