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AstraZeneca employs Wolfram tech for liver health research

Project could produce mathematical models that can detect liver problems

AstraZeneca HQ 

AstraZeneca has teamed up with computing software firm Wolfram to work on a new method for evaluating liver function by using mathematical modelling.

The project will also combine MRI scans with Wolfram's own programming language and modelling capabilities, potentially allowing researchers and clinicians to examine a liver using just a mathematical model.

The liver performs a wide range of functions related to detoxification, protein synthesis and digestion, so it's important to closely monitor how new drug candidates affect the organ.

In the US and Europe, up to 15% of all acute liver failure cases are due to drug-induced liver injury, highlighting the need for accurate scans. 

In addition to providing information about new drug formulations, the model created by Wolfram and AstraZeneca could also aid in the early identification of any reduced liver function for other, non-drug related issues.

When using the mathematical model, an injection of an MRI contrast agent is injected into the blood, where it spreads and ultimately reaches the liver. 

Once inside, the blood vessel walls are highly permeable, like a coffee filter, allowing for a rapid diffusion of the agent into the extracellular space. 

The MRI contrast agent accumulates in the liver cells, and finally is excreted into the bile. 

This process requires that the cells are healthy, have enough energy, and are not overloaded with other work. 

If the cells are compromised, the transfer rates of the agent will be reduced. A reduced liver function can thus be observed by the calculated transfer rates in the model.

Data is extracted from the images in regions of interest (ROIs) within the liver as well as the spleen. 

The latter is used as a surrogate for measuring the amount of contrast agent within the blood directly, since the splenic cells do not accumulate any contrast agent.

This means that the measurement in the spleen is only influenced by the contrast agent in the spleen's blood vessels. 

This in turn allows AZ to see if one of its drugs has had a negative impact on the organ long before any serious damage occurs.

A recent research paper has shown this process can work in pre-clinical testing, and AZ and Wolfram are now working on more projects in the clinic to assess how well it can work in human patients.

Article by
Ben Adams

13th February 2015

From: Research

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