Biliary atresia (BA) is a neonatal liver disease characterized by progressive obstruction and fibrosis of the extrahepatic biliary tree as well as fibrosis and inflammation of the liver parenchyma. Recent studies found that infants who will go on to develop BA have elevated direct bilirubin levels in the first few days of life, suggesting that the disease starts in utero. The etiology and pathogenesis of BA, however, remain unknown. Here, we discuss recent studies examining potential pathogenetic mechanisms of BA, including genetic susceptibility, involvement of the immune system, and environmental insults such as viruses and toxins, although it is possible that there is not a single etiological agent but rather a large group of injurious insults that result in a final common pathway of extrahepatic bile duct obstruction and liver fibrosis. The management and diagnosis of BA have not advanced significantly in the past decade, but given recent advances in understanding the timing and potential pathogenesis of BA, we are hopeful that the next decade will bring early diagnostics and novel therapeutics.
- Bile duct