More than 12000 deaths per year are attributed to alcoholic liver disease (ALD). Early stages of ALD are believed to be reversible, but there is no definitive treatment available. The early stages of ALD are associated with increased activation of inflammatory pathways. In this issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, researchers at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center blocked inflammatory molecules to treat an ALD-like disease in mice.

By feeding mice a diet that included alcohol, Gyongyi Szabo and colleagues were able to mimic ALD progression in humans. They found that inflammation stimulated by a protein known as IL-1. Abrogating production of IL-1 or treating mice with drugs that turn-off the IL-1 inflammatory pathway could prevent the development of ALD in mice and could also reverse early-stage ALD. This study suggests that blocking IL-1 may be a new therapeutic approach in the treatment of ALD.