Researchers in Japan have conducted an animal study that indicates L-Carnitine may protect against free radical damage and mitochondrial dysfunction in hepatitis and liver cancer.
In past studies, the same researchers have reported that mitochondrial dysfunction plays an important role in the development of liver cancer through the production of free radicals. They also conducted studies that showed L-Carnitine protects mitochondrial function in vivo.
In the current study, they investigated whether long-term administration of L-Carnitine could prevent hepatitis and subsequent liver cancer in a type of rat often analyzed as a model of liver cancer. In this liver cancer model, oxidative stress occurred in the animals, which increased the amount of free fatty acids, thereby inducing mitochondrial dysfunction. This resulted in cell death and enhanced secondary generation of reactive oxygen species (free radicals). In the animals given carnitine, however, these destructive processes were significantly inhibited. In addition, L-Carnitine significantly inhibited markers for precancerous lesions and markers for liver cancer.
The researchers concluded, "These facts suggest that mitochondrial injury plays an essential role in the development of hepatocarcinogenesis [liver cancer] and that the clinical use of carnitine has excellent therapeutic potential in individuals with chronic hepatitis."
Chang B, Nishikawa M, Nishiguchi S, Inoue M. L-carnitine inhibits hepatocarcinogenesis via protection of mitochondria. Int J Cancer. 2004 Oct 21 [Epub ahead of print].