During the next seven years, the Drug-Induced Liver Injury Network, or DILIN, will study patients who have suffered severe liver injury caused by prescription and over-the-counter medications, nutritional supplements, alternative medicines and herbals.
Funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, DILIN will be the first large-scale investigation of severe liver injury associated with drugs.
Other DILIN centers along with UNC are at the University of Indiana at Indianapolis, University of California at San Francisco, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and University of Connecticut at Hartford.
Duke University is the project's data coordinating center, collecting information from the five clinical centers.
Drug-induced liver injury is the most common cause of sudden liver failure nationwide and the most common reason why new drugs fail to obtain approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said Dr. Paul Watkins, DILIN Steering Committee chairman and the study's principal investigator at UNC.
"This is the case even though drugs that cause liver injury are usually entirely safe for the majority of patients taking them," he added. The main purpose of DILIN is to find and study people who have experienced liver injury due to medications, said Watkins, who is Verne S. Caviness distinguished professor of medicine, professor of pharmacotherapy and director of the General Clinical Research Center at UNC. "This is the only way we can identify inherited and other factors that explain why a particular patient is susceptible when most are not," he said.
Researchers will use DNA analysis based on blood samples to identify possible genetic risk factors for such liver injury.