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Brittany Jennings
February 13, 2020



Niyati Vachharajani, Ph.D., has one goal in mind – to make drugs safer for people.

With that focus, she is beginning to examine drug-induced liver injury (DILI), which she said is a major public health issue that affects patients, healthcare providers, drug developers and drug regulators. In fact, Vachharajani said intrinsic (dose-dependent) DILI associated with acetaminophen overdose is the number one cause of acute liver failure in the United States.

Vachharajani said symptoms of idiosyncratic drug-induced liver injury (IDILI) ⁠— a rare adverse drug reaction ⁠— are not apparent in patients until weeks or months after treatment with the offending drug.

That’s the problem she is hoping to solve with her project, titled, “A Quantitative In Vitro Approach to Assess the Impact of Human Hepatocyte-Derived Exosomes on Immune Response in Idiosyncratic Drug-Induced Liver Injury.” Exosomes are extracellular vesicles released from cells. They represent a novel mode of intercellular communication and may play a major role in many cellular processes.

Because of her work, the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy postdoc is this year’s recipient of the Society of Toxicology’s Colgate-Palmolive Postdoctoral Fellowship Awards in In Vitro Toxicology.

The $44,000 award supports research to advance the development of alternatives to animal testing in toxicological research.

“I feel absolutely delighted and deeply honored to receive this prestigious award,” Vachharajani said. “Acute liver failure is common in the U.S., and through my research, I want to help make drugs safer for humans.”

Vachharajani is currently working in the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy’s Division of Pharmacotherapy and Experimental Therapeutics with Research Assistant Professor Merrie Mosedale, Ph.D.

“This award is a wonderful accomplishment for Dr. Vachharajani, and the funding will be instrumental in advancing her project to understand and predict idiosyncratic drug-induced liver injury. In particular, it will allow her to use the optimal in vitro models and cutting-edge technology to evaluate exosome response. I expect her project will lead to a better understanding of the mechanism of these clinically significant reactions and possibly an in vitro assay to predict idiosyncratic drug-induced liver injury liability for new drugs,” Mosedale said.

Vachharajani will be honored on March 15, during the SOT 59th Annual Meeting and ToxExpo.

As for future career goals, Vachharajani said, “As a scientist, my career aspirations are to contribute to translational research which improves human health directly.”

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