A study published today in Stem Cells Translational Medicine shows that microRNAs could be used to treat paracetamol overdose. Lead researcher Dr David Hay from the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh spoke to Sylvie Kruiniger about his findings, made possible by growing and testing their own stem cell-derived liver cells.
Why is it important to study paracetamol overdose?
Taken at recommended levels, paracetamol is usually safe, effective and is used widely in adults and children, either alone or in combination with other drugs.
However, it can damage the liver and the risk of liver damage increases with doses over the recommended levels. Each year we see around 200 deaths involving paracetamol (National Office for Statistics).
What happens in your liver when you take paracetamol?
When the liver processes a recommended dose of paracetamol, most of the drug is broken down by acid into water-soluble forms that can be passed in the urine or exported to the bile: this is called the sulfation pathway.
Around five per cent is turned into a toxin called N Acetyl-p-Benzo Quinone Imine (NAPQI). At this low level, the liver can clear the toxin with an antioxidant that reacts with NAPQI so it can be excreted in urine and bile. Read more