Computer Simulation, Comprehensive Examination, Dose-Variable Effects

In an effort to enhance understanding of how the liver metabolizes acetaminophen, researchers at Indiana University’s Biocomplexity Institute have announced the development of a computer based “virtual model” of the human organ. Using “virtual tissue” technology enables the research team to model the distribution of medications at various points in time and location in the body. The model enables the simulation of drug absorption, distribution, and metabolism at 3 different levels, the whole body, the organ, and the subcellular. Co-lead author James Sluka, PhD, research scientist at the Biocomplexity Institute, observed, “Although this model of acetaminophen toxicity isn’t currently directed at developing interventions to accidental overdoses, it suggests a surprisingly large degree of difference in sensitivity to the drug across large populations.”

The authors suggest that virtual tissue models could play a contributing role in pharmacokinetics, the study of how drugs move within the body. This understanding could assist in the development of better tailored prescription guidelines that reduce overdose risk.  As noted in an earlier Daily Dose posting, acetaminophen has been implicated as the leading cause of acute liver failure in the US, resulting in some 33,000 hospitalizations and 500 deaths annually. The team notes that their work is based on open source software, enabling its reuse and modification to study the toxic risk associated with other drugs or environmental agents. The team’s work is reported in the journal PLOS ONE.

Read a news story about the development here.

The journal article may be read here.

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