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Mass. General researchers find novel way to prevent drug-induced liver injury
Date:1/15/2012

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators have developed a novel strategy to protect the liver from drug-induced injury and improve associated drug safety. In their report receiving advance online publication in the journal Nature Biotechnology, the team reports that inhibition of a type of cell-to-cell communication can protect against the damage caused by liver-toxic drugs such as acetaminophen.

"Our findings suggest that this therapy could be a clinically viable strategy for treating patients with drug-induced liver injury," says Suraj Patel, PhD, of the MGH Department of Surgery, the paper's lead author. "This work also has the potential to change the way drugs are developed and formulated, which could improve drug safety by providing medications with reduced risk of liver toxicity."

Developing, approving and prescribing a drug requires that the therapeutic benefits be weighed against any potential toxicities. Liver toxicity limits the development of many therapeutic compounds and presents major challenges to both clinical medicine and to the pharmaceutical industry. Drug-induced liver injury is the most common cause of acute liver failure in the U.S. and is also the most frequent reason for abandoning drugs early in development or withdrawing them from the market. Since no pharmaceutical strategies currently exist for preventing drug-induced liver injury, treatment options are limited to discontinuing the offending drug, supportive care and transplantation for end-stage liver failure.

Gap junctions are hollow channels that connect neighboring cells and allow direct intercellular communication between coupled cells. In the heart, gap junctions are known to propagate the electrical activity required for contraction, but their role in the liver is poorly defined. Recent work by the MGH team and others has shown that assemblies of intercellular gap junctions spread immune signals from injured liver cells to surroun
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Contact: Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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