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Development and validation of an integrated tiered in vitro screening approach for predicting drug induced liver injury (DILI)

Project supervisors: Dr Nikolas John Hodges - School of Biosciences

University of registration: University of Birmingham

Non-Academic partner: Dr Timothy Schulz-Utermoehl - Sygnature Discovery Ltd

Project title: Development and validation of an integrated tiered in vitro screening approach for predicting drug induced liver injury (DILI)

Project outline:

Background: Liver injury is a major cause of drug attrition as a result of preclinical toxicity and usually occurs late on in clinical trials. Currently, liver injury is largely assessed using animal (rodent) models. However, there is an urgent need to develop alternative in vitro and in silico models that once validated would have a number of important potential advantages namely:

  1. They would be simpler and cheaper.
  2. They would be amenable to high throughput screening.
  3. They could be designed based on mechanistic understanding of liver injury to test for different classes of toxicants by using different endpoints.
  4. In line with the 3Rs they would reduce the need for animals.
  5. Because of points 1–4 above, they could be employed earlier in drug development enabling toxic compounds to be identified quickly.

Because multiple modes of action are known to be important an integrated tiered screening approach based on a mechanistic understanding is required.

Project Aims: To develop and assess in vitro assays including bile salt export pump and multidrug resistance protein 2 inhibition assay, UDP-glucuronosyl transferase 1A1 and 1A3 enzyme inhibition, cell toxicity (MTT, adenylate kinase), impairment of mitochondrial membrane potential (TMRE), mitochondrial (mitosox) and cellular ROS (DCF-DA) using liver cell lines (e.g. HepG2) and primary hepatocytes in combination with state-of-the-art technologies including the Hi Content Imaging Express, Incucyte Cell Imager for real time analysis and imaging of cells in culture and LC-MS-TOF for reactive metabolite assessment. In addition we will explore use of confocal-imaging in combination with tagged-reporter proteins to develop assays for stress-response mediated by specific transcriptional activation pathways (e.g. Nrf2 nuclear translocation as a marker of the “anti-oxidant response”). These assays will be validated using a “training set” of known toxic (e.g. carbon tetrachloride) and non-toxic compounds to build a database of responses to known hepatoxicants that exert their effects by different mechanisms. Once validated the predictive power of developed assays will be tested using a panel of chemicals (and metabolites, acyl,N-,O-glucuronides for example) where little information exists on their ability to cause liver injury or which are currently under in vivo assessment. A link to potential systemic drug levels will also be assessed.

In summary, the project will establish an integrated tiered in vitro screening strategy that can be applied in drug discovery to minimize the likelihood of drug induced liver injury and to minimize the use of animals in research.

Closing date for applications: 8th January 2017

Check eligibilty and apply here

Please note:

iCASE students must fulfil the MIBTP entry requirements and will join the MIBTP cohort for the taught modules and masterclasses during the first term. iCASE students can then start their PhD project in Jan 2018 but must complete a 3-month miniproject (at a non-home institution) before the end of their first year. They will remain as an integral part of the MIBTP cohort and take part in the core networking activities and transferable skills training. MIBTP iCase.