Mechanism of valproic acid-induced hepatotixicity

Valproic acid is an anticonvulsant drug frequently prescribed to epileptic patients, and also used to manage bipolar disorder, migraine headaches and pain. Despite its ability to control seizures, the drug is associated with a rare, but potentially fatal liver toxicity. It is unclear how valproic acid causes liver failure, and health care professionals are unable to predict which patients will be affected, although it occurs more frequently in patients younger than two years of age who are also taking other anticonvulsant medications. Tony Kiang is researching the factors that cause and the mechanisms responsible for valproic acid induced liver failure in pediatric epileptic patients. The research could help physicians identify patients at risk of liver toxicity before prescribing valproic acid, so other medications can be used instead. The findings could also be applied to other drugs with similar side effects to improve their safety, and to identify compounds likely to cause side effects during drug development.