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The Making of Medicine

A New Tool to Prevent Harmful Medication Side Effects

Our researchers have created a powerful new tool to better understand how medications can affect men and women differently, and that will help lead to safer drugs.

Jason Papin, PhD, and his collaborators -- PhD student Connor Moore and Christopher Holstege, MD, the director of UVA Health’s Blue Ridge Poison Center -- have developed a sophisticated computer model of male and female livers and used it to reveal sex-specific differences in how the tissues are affected by drugs.

The liver is responsible for detoxifying the body. And women are known to suffer a disproportionate number of liver problems from medications. (Women are typically underrepresented in the testing of new drugs, making it hard to spot some unwanted side effects.)

The new model will help scientists better understand how drugs in development will affect the liver cells in both men and women. And that will help produce better, safer drugs for both sexes.

“There are incredibly complex networks of genes and proteins that control how cells respond to drugs,” Professor Papin explained. “We knew that a computer model would be required to try to answer these important clinical questions, and we’re hopeful these models will continue to provide insights that can improve healthcare.”

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