Insulin resistance and hepatic lipid accumulation constitute the metabolic underpinning of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). We tested the hypothesis that saroglitazar, a PPAR α/γ agonist would improve NASH in the diet-induced animal model of NAFLD. Mice received chow diet and normal water (CDNW) or high fat western diet and ad lib sugar water (WDSW). After 12 weeks, WDSW fed mice were randomized to receive (1) WDSW alone, (2) WDSW + vehicle, (3) WDSW + pioglitazone or (4) WDSW + saroglitazar for an additional 12 weeks. Compared to mice on WDSW and vehicle controls, mice receiving WDSW + saroglitazar had lower weight, lower HOMA-IR, triglycerides, total cholesterol, and ALT. Saroglitazar improved steatosis, lobular inflammation, hepatocellular ballooning and fibrosis stage. NASH resolved in all mice receiving saroglitazar. These effects were at par with or superior to pioglitazone. Molecular analyses confirmed target engagement and reduced oxidative stress, unfolded protein response and fibrogenic signaling. Transcriptomic analysis further confirmed increased PPAR-target expression and an anti-inflammatory effect with saroglitazar. Lipidomic analyses demonstrated that saroglitazar also reduced triglycerides, diglycerides, sphingomyelins and ceramides. These preclinical data provide a strong rationale for developing saroglitazar for the treatment of NASH in humans.
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