Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the most frequent causes of abnormal liver function and correlates with central adiposity, obesity, insulin resistance, the metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes mellitus. The pathological spectrum of NAFLD ranges from fatty liver to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), advanced fibrosis, cirrhosis, and even hepatocellular carcinoma. Though NAFLD and NASH are becoming a major public health problem, ethical constraints on obtaining human liver tissue limit the interpretability of the data and the ability to delineate cause and effect from complex, interactive disease pathogenic pathways. Animal models of NASH can provide critical information leading to identify potential drug targets and to understand their molecular mechanisms, and are platforms for compound screening in drug development and for the assessment of novel therapeutic strategies. This review is aimed to offer an updated overview of the nutritional, genetic and pharmacologic animal models of NASH. Though the information derived from these models has clear relevance for the comprehension of the molecular basis of human disease, most of them fail to reproduce the full spectrum of liver pathology and the metabolic context that characterizes human NASH. Consequently, it is necessary to establish animal models that can best mimic the actual etiology, progression, and pathogenesis of the disease, and prove effectiveness for examining and selecting compounds with potential therapeutic benefit in NASH.
Keywords: Animal models, atherogenesis, dietary models, genetic models, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), syndrome, diabetes mellitus, hepatocellular carcinoma, lobular inflammation