Inhibition of experimentally induced cirrhosis in rats by hypothyroidism



The coexistence of hyperkinetic circulation, hypermetabolism, and hyperactivity of the sympathetic nervous system is encountered in both cirrhosis and hyperthyroidism. Several drugs, such as propylthiouracil and propranolol, that are beneficial for treating some patients with chronic liver diseases are also prescribed for the treatment of thyrotoxicosis. We investigated the effects of experimentally induced hypo- and hyperthyroidism on the development of cirrhosis induced in rats by thioacetamide (TAA). We specifically examined whether hypothyroidism could prevent and hyperthyroidism could aggravate liver damage. Hypothyroidism induced by methimazole (MMI, 0.04%), propylthiouracil (PTU 0.05%), and by thyroidectomy was confirmed by a significant elevation of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels. Hyperthyroidism (decreased TSH levels) was induced by eltroxin (ELT: 50 micrograms/kg). Thirteen groups of 10 rats each were studied: euthyroid controls (3 groups: water, TAA 1.5 months, and TAA 3 months), hypothyroid (6 groups: MMI, PTU, surgical, MMI-TAA, PTU-TAA, surgical-TAA), and hyperthyroid (4 groups:ELT 1.5 months and 3 months, and ELT-TAA for 1.5 months and 3 months). Hepatic fibrosis (scored from 0 to 3) was significantly reduced (P < .0001) in hypothyroid rats as compared with euthyroid controls, and was aggravated in TAA-treated hyperthyroid rats (P < .0001). Quantitative microscopic analysis of liver biopsy specimens from all groups confirmed the semiquantitative histopathological scores (P < .001). Direct intrasplenic pressure measurement revealed a significant portal pressure elevation in the TAA and the ELT-treated rats (from 4.7 ± 0.1 in the euthyroid group to 8.1 ± 2.3 and 10.2 ± 2.1 and 12.5 ± 1.6 in the TAA, ELT and ELT- TAA groups, respectively). However, in the hypothyroid-TAA groups, the portal pressure was found to be within the euthyroid normal range (4.6 ± 1.2 and 5.8 ± 0.6 in the PTU-TAA and surgical-TAA, respectively). After 12 weeks, the mean spleen weight of rats receiving only TAA was significantly higher than the TAA-treated hypothyroid rats (P < .0001), indicating that the hypothyroid TAA-treated rats were less portal hypertensive. These results suggest that induced hypothyroidism can inhibit, whereas hyperthyroidism can aggravate, the development of cirrhosis in a rat model.