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NIDDK Grant Funds Liver Toxicity Pharmacogenetic Study

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease has given a $1 million grant to two North Carolina researchers who will use mouse models to discover genetic risk factors that cause some patients to have adverse liver reactions to certain drugs, according to the Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences.

The two-year funding will support a research collaboration between principal investigator Paul Watkins, a professor of medicine and toxicology at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and founding director of the Hamner-UNC Institute for Drug Safety Sciences, and David Threadgill, a professor and head of the department of genetics at North Carolina State University.

The Challenge Grant stimulus funding will support studies that use the Collaborative Cross mouse population, which was developed to model the genetic diversity of the human population in an effort to improve the ability of rodent models to be used to study human biology.

These two researchers had worked together previously in studies that found genetic similarities between mice and humans that contribute to liver toxicity due to acetaminophen.

This project will focus on identifying genes that affect the toxicity of drugs that cause severe adverse reactions only in rare, susceptible patients, in an effort to develop tools to identify which patients will have adverse reactions to certain drugs.

"The major bottleneck in the development of new drugs is no longer demonstrating that they are effective, but rather the time and expense required establishing that they are safe," Watkins said in a statement. "The Collaborative Cross mice are a tremendous resource to help understand why some patients are more susceptible to adverse drug events than are others, and we are very excited to begin these studies."

"This resource can be used to investigate not only factors that determine susceptibility to adverse drug events, but also susceptibility to environmental toxicants or diseases such as colon or breast cancer," Threadgill said.