Mechanism-based target therapy in primary biliary cholangitis: opportunities before liver cirrhosis?

Yushu Yang, Xiao Song He, Manuel Rojas, Patrick S.C. Leung, Lixia Gao

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) is an immune-mediated liver disease characterized by cholestasis, biliary injuries, liver fibrosis, and chronic non-suppurative cholangitis. The pathogenesis of PBC is multifactorial and involves immune dysregulation, abnormal bile metabolism, and progressive fibrosis, ultimately leading to cirrhosis and liver failure. Ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) and obeticholic acid (OCA) are currently used as first- and second-line treatments, respectively. However, many patients do not respond adequately to UDCA, and the long-term effects of these drugs are limited. Recent research has advanced our understanding the mechanisms of pathogenesis in PBC and greatly facilitated development of novel drugs to target mechanistic checkpoints. Animal studies and clinical trials of pipeline drugs have yielded promising results in slowing disease progression. Targeting immune mediated pathogenesis and anti-inflammatory therapies are focused on the early stage, while anti-cholestatic and anti-fibrotic therapies are emphasized in the late stage of disease, which is characterized by fibrosis and cirrhosis development. Nonetheless, it is worth noting that currently, there exists a dearth of therapeutic options that can effectively impede the progression of the disease to its terminal stages. Hence, there is an urgent need for further research aimed at investigating the underlying pathophysiology mechanisms with potential therapeutic effects. This review highlights our current knowledge of the underlying immunological and cellular mechanisms of pathogenesis in PBC. Further, we also address current mechanism-based target therapies for PBC and potential therapeutic strategies to improve the efficacy of existing treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1184252
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
StatePublished - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology


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