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Better tests for liver toxicity would mean more medicines -- and safer medicines -- for patients
Date:9/8/2013

for decades and have an established safety record. The volunteers then got the standard blood tests for liver damage. Those tests measure levels of two enzymes, aspartate aminotransferase (AST) and alanine aminotransferase (ALT), which are released into the blood when liver cells die. The results showed alarmingly high AST/ALT levels, which the scientists first thought were false-positive results, meaning that liver cells weren't really dying. Follow-up tests, however, verified that liver cells were dying.

Those experiments led to a realization that drugs can cause liver cells to die, produce elevated AST/ALT levels in patients, but not cause the kind of permanent liver damage that can mean a liver transplant or death. In most cases, the liver recovers and adjusts, and patients actually can continue taking the medication without risking permanent damage, Watkins explained.

In other patients, Watkins suspects, the immune system goes into overdrive in response to the initial damage and mistakenly begins to attack and kill liver cells. If that's the case, a test that accurately predicts the risk of permanent liver damage would detect the proteins and genes associated with activation of the immune system.

Watkins' group and other research teams in the Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network (DILIN), which he leads, are now on the hunt to find markers that could be better indicators of liver safety. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) established DILIN to collect and analyze cases of severe liver injury caused by prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs and alternative medicines, such as herbal products and supplements.

DILIN is among major international efforts to develop better tests for predicting serious side effects of medicines. The European Union, for instance, is seeking better tests for liver, kidney and heart damage with its '/>"/>

Contact: Michael Bernstein
m_bernstein@acs.org
317-262-5907 (Indianapolis Press Center, Sept. 6-11)
202-872-6042

Michael Woods
m_woods@acs.org
317-262-5907 (Indianapolis Press Center, Sept. 6-11)
202-872-6293

American Chemical Society
Source:Eurekalert


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