New target to prevent drug-induced liver damage identified

US scientists have identified a key protein that could protect against drug-induced liver disease and acute liver failure.

Acetaminophen, more commonly known as Tylenol, helps relieve pain and reduce fever. The over-the-counter drug is a major ingredient in many cold and flu remedies as well as prescription painkillers like Percocet and Vicodin.

Doctors at the Keck School of Medicine of USC have identified a protein ‘Sab’ on the mitochondria of liver cells in mice that, when silenced, protects against liver toxicity usually associated with excess doses of acetaminophen.

Researchers have long believed that acetaminophen was converted into toxic metabolites that, in excess, overwhelm liver cells, causing them to die.

In the current study, the scientists silenced Sab in mice, which did not affect the metabolism of acetaminophen but successfully prevented liver injury.

They also tested the effect on liver injury caused by apoptosis — silencing Sab protected the liver in that case, too.

The study has been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

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