In our study, serum markers were measured from a blood sample taken before liver biopsy. A multiplex suspension bead array immunoassay was performed using the Luminex 100™ analyser (Luminex Corporation, Austin, TX, USA) to
identify protein expression in frozen serum samples according to the manufacturers’ specifications. A multiplex kit (LINCOplex™; LINCO Research, St Charles, MO, USA) was used to specifically evaluate the following markers: insulin, leptin, hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), nerve growth factor (NGF), soluble Fas-associated death domain protein ligand (sFasL), soluble Fas-associated GSI-IX nmr death domain protein (sFas), macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF), soluble intercellular adhesion molecule (sICAM), and soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule (sVCAM). A minimum of 100 events (beads) were collected for each protein sample, and median fluorescence intensities (MFIs) were obtained. Analyte protein concentrations were automatically calculated based on standard curve data using MasterPlex™ QT Analysis version 2 (MiraiBio http://www.selleckchem.com/products/ly2157299.html Inc., Alameda, CA, USA). A five-parameter regression formula was used to calculate the sample concentrations from the standard curves. Using commercially
available reagents, we also tested via ELISA: hyaluronic acid (HA; HA-ELISA; Echelon Biosciences Inc., Salt Lake City, UT, USA), angiopoietin-II (Ang-2; R&D Systems, Minneapolis, MN, USA), tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1), matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) and matrix metalloproteinase-2
(MMP-2) (GE Healthcare UK Limited, Buckinghamshire, UK), SDHB and YKL-40 (Quidel Corporation, San Diego, CA, USA). In each patient, the degree of insulin resistance (IR) was estimated by the homeostatic model assessment method (HOMA) described by Matthews et al. . In particular, an IR score (HOMA-IR) was obtained from samples acquired from fasting patients using the formula: [plasma glucose (mmol/L) × serum insulin (mU/L)]/22.5. Liver biopsies were performed on an outpatient basis following the recommendations of the Patient Care Committee of the American Gastroenterological Association . All liver biopsies were performed by the same physicians (J.B. and P.M.) with a suction needle (HISTO-CUT 16G; Sterylab Srl., Milan, Italy). Ultrasound was routinely used to determine the percutaneous biopsy site. We did not record systematically the size of liver biopsy specimens; however, during the study period, five out of 297 biopsies yielded insufficient liver tissue for pathological diagnosis. The liver tissue sections were fixed in formalin, embedded in paraffin and stained with haematoxylin-eosin, Mason’s trichrome, and Perls’ iron. The samples were evaluated by a pathologist (E.A.) who was unaware of the patients’ clinical or laboratory data. Liver fibrosis was estimated following the criteria established by the METAVIR Cooperative Study Group .