Liver study could aid recovery of overdose patients

December 16, 2008

Scientists have identified a protein that they believe could hold the key to limiting liver damage following a paracetamol overdose.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh have found that overdose patients who suffer the greatest liver damage have higher levels of a protein known as cyclophilin A in their urine.

Around 200 people die each year in the UK as a result of a paracetamol overdose and last year 20 overdose patients underwent a liver transplant.

Scientists hope that developing a treatment to block the harmful actions of cyclophilin A could help such patients. They also believe that measuring levels of the protein could enable doctors to determine much sooner which patients are most at risk of liver failure.

This would mean that high-risk patients could be placed on a liver transplant waiting list sooner, providing more time to find a suitable donor organ.

Dr James Dear, a lecturer in clinical pharmacology at the University of Edinburgh who led the research, said: "Around 30 per cent of patients who have developed significant liver injury following a paracetamol overdose die.

"If we can find a way to block the protein cyclophilin A, we would hope to limit further damage to the liver. Alternatively, measuring levels of the protein could indicate straight away which patients will need a liver transplant. Waiting a number of days means that valuable time is lost in trying to find a suitable match. Even gaining an extra day or two could save a life."
The findings will be presented at the British Pharmacological Society winter meeting on Wednesday, 17th December.

University of Edinburgh

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