New York: High fat and high cholesterol diet can trigger changes in the immune system that can lead to non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a serious form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, a study says.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the accumulation of liver fat in people who drink little or no alcohol.

NASH can eventually progress to cirrhosis or liver cancer, especially in those with obesity or Type-2 diabetes.

In a mice study, published in the journal Hepatology, the researchers showed that changes in the immune system triggered by fatty diet can eventually lead to liver inflammation and scarring that is commonly seen in patients suffering from NASH.

"Not only does this study define how fat and cholesterol shape the progression of liver inflammation and scarring, but it also identifies potential pathways that can be targeted for future therapies," said Hugo Rosen, Professor at Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California in the US.

"That could bring us closer to finding a treatment for a disease that impacts millions of lives around the world," Rosen added.

There is an urgent need to better understand the causes of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease progression so that successful therapeutics can be designed and brought into clinical practice, the study noted.