North Carolina State University and The Hamner Institutes for Health Sciences have received a $1 million grant from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease to study why some patients have serious liver reactions to otherwise safe drugs.
The money is part of the Challenge Grant Program supported by federal stimulus dollars. Dr. David Threadgill, professor and head of the Department of Genetics at NC State, and Dr. Paul Watkins, founding director of The Hamner-UNC Institute for Drug Safety Sciences, are the lead investigators.
The two-year project will utilize the “Collaborative Cross,” a unique mouse population that is being developed in North Carolina to model the genetic diversity of the human population and thereby improve the ability of rodent models to predict and understand human biology. It is anticipated that genetic risk factors will be uncovered that can then be tested in patients who have experienced liver injury due to drugs. This should lead to new clinical tests that can identify sensitive patients so that they can avoid drugs likely to cause a liver reaction. In addition, these studies should advance understanding that will permit the future design of safer medications.
“The Collaborative Cross is an unprecedented tool to study the complex interactions between genes and the environment that determine individual differences in susceptibility to common diseases,” Threadgill said. “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.”