UTHealth's Cynthia Ju awarded NIH grants for liver injury research

December 20, 2019

Tiny solutions are being sought for big liver problems by a scientist at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Armed with two grants totaling $3.6 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Cynthia Ju, PhD, professor, vice chair for research of anesthesiology and co-director of the Center for Perioperative Medicine at McGovern Medical School, is studying molecules linked to life-threatening liver injuries.

The idea is to identify molecules that play a major role in the injury process and then develop ways to either enhance their activity or block them. These molecules are sometimes called drug targets or biologics.

One grant is to mitigate the liver injury that occurs during a transplant, and the other is to lessen the damage that happens during an acetaminophen overdose.

In the liver transplantation study, Ju and her collaborator Wasim Dar, MD, PhD, associate professor of surgery at McGovern Medical School, will build on earlier work showing that a white blood cell known as an eosinophil protects the liver during transplantation.

Ju's grant is to further study the role of IL-33/ST2 signaling in eosinophils and how that signaling leads to protection in order to find potential avenues for therapeutic intervention.

The liver is the second most commonly transplanted major organ, after the kidney, reports the United Network of Organ Sharing. In 2017, 8,082 patients received a liver transplant and 13,885 patients in the United States were on the waiting list for a liver transplant.

In the acetaminophen study, Ju and Zhiqiang An, PhD, professor and Robert A. Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry at McGovern Medical School, are trying to address the alarming number of liver failure cases linked to acetaminophen overuse. It is responsible for nearly half of liver failure cases in intensive care units across the country.

"Patients with Tylenol overdose-induced liver failure also have thrombocytopenia, a significant platelet reduction in the blood," Ju said. "Where the platelets went had been a mystery."

Ju studied liver biopsies from liver failure patients due to the overdose of acetaminophen and found an abundance of platelets in the liver. Interestingly, she found that depletion of platelets in the liver markedly reduced acetaminophen-induced liver injury in mice, suggesting that the excess platelets are causing liver damage. The grant will allow Ju to further study Chi3l1 signaling and the underlying mechanism accounting for its role in causing acute liver injury.
-end-
The grants are titled "Role of Eosinophils in Hepatic Ischemia Reperfusion Injury" and the other is "Role of Chitinase-3-like-1 (Chi3l1) in Acetaminophen-Induced Liver Injury." Both are from the NIH's National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (R01DK122708 and R01DK121330).

Ju and An are both on the faculty of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center UTHealth Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. Ju is the Joseph C. Gabel, MD, Endowed Chair in Anesthesiology at McGovern Medical School.

University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Related Acetaminophen Articles from Brightsurf:

A pain reliever that alters perceptions of risk
While acetaminophen is helping you deal with your headache, it may also be making you more willing to take risks, a new study suggests.

Research shows ibuprofen does not hinder bone fracture healing in children
Doctors have traditionally avoided prescribing nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen to patients with fractures.

Le Bonheur Children's Hospital trial: Intravenous indomethacin more effective for hsPDAs
Le Bonheur and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center neonatologists, led by Jennifer M.

A prescription for the pain of rejection: Acetaminophen and forgiveness
A study, published recently in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine may have found an antidote to heartbreak -- forgiveness combined with acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol.

UTHealth's Cynthia Ju awarded NIH grants for liver injury research
Tiny solutions are being sought for big liver problems by a scientist at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

Study examines fetal exposure to acetaminophen, risk of childhood ADHD, ASD
Umbilical cord blood samples were used to examine an association between fetal exposure to acetaminophen and risk of childhood attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disabilities in a group of nearly 1,000 mother-child pairs.

NIH-funded study suggests acetaminophen in pregnancy linked to higher risk of ADHD, autism
Exposure to acetaminophen in the womb may increase a child's risk for attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder, suggests a study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality.

OHIO study: Acetaminophen can reduce positive empathy for others
A new study by an Ohio University faculty member showed that acetaminophen limited positive empathy a person has for others while taking it.

Scientists find new therapy target for drug-induced liver failure
Acetaminophen -- a commonly used pain reliever and fever reducer -- is the leading cause of quickly developing, or acute, liver failure in the U.S.

Acetaminophen may increase stroke risk for those with diabetes
Surprisingly, we are only now coming to understand how acetaminophen works -- and recent research shows that we may need to develop a better understanding of the need for caution when using acetaminophen, especially when it comes to avoiding some of the risks associated with its use.

Read More: Acetaminophen News and Acetaminophen Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.