YKL-40 is a Protective Biomarker for Fatty Liver in World Trade Center Particulate Matter-Exposed Firefighters.
BACKGROUND: Serum biomarkers of metabolic syndrome predict abnormal lung function in World Trade Center particulate matter (WTC-PM)-exposed Fire Department of New York (FDNY) rescue workers. In animal models, exposure to ambient PM induces non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a well-known comorbidity of metabolic syndrome. YKL-40 is an inflammatory biomarker for both liver and lung disease. We tested if YKL-40 is a biomarker for NAFLD in this dust-exposed cohort. METHODS: Using a nested case-control design, we studied 131 FDNY personnel who had Computer Tomography performed within 5 years post 9/11. NAFLD was defined by a liver/spleen attenuation ratio of ≤1. Serum biomarkers, lipid panel and liver function were measured in serum that had been drawn within 6 months of September 11, 2001. YKL-40 and chitotriosidase were assayed by ELISA. We tested biomarker and NAFLD association using logistic regression adjusted for age, BMI, and post-911 lung function. RESULTS: NAFLD was present in 29/131 (22%) of the cohort. In a multivariable model increasing YKL-40 was protective while increasing triglyceride and alkaline phosphatase were risk factors for NAFLD. CONCLUSIONS: Increased YKL-40 is a protective biomarker in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Further studies may reveal a link between PM-induced lung and liver diseases.