Immune system protein could explain pancreatitis

August 31, 2012, Lund University

It is likely that the protein is also highly significant for other inflammatory diseases.

The research results have been published in the American journal Gastroenterology.

and gall stones are known risk factors for . However, as yet no explanation has been found for what actually happens in the body in cases of acute pancreatitis.

Current research shows that calcium- found in the body, for example calcineurin, promote inflammation, but it is not known exactly how.

Henrik Thorlacius and Maria Gomez at the University's Department of Clinical Sciences in Malmö have investigated this in more detail. The focus is on a family of proteins linked to calcineurin, called NFAT, the role of which in acute pancreatitis has not previously been studied.

"The protein has an unexpectedly major role in the development of inflammation in the pancreas. Now there is a clear target for the development of drugs and treatments", says Henrik Thorlacius, Professor of Surgery at Lund University and a doctor at Skåne University Hospital.

In experiments on mice, the researchers found a number of links between NFAT and acute pancreatitis. NFAT, and especially the variant NFATc3, were found to regulate the activity of trypsinogen (a precursor form of the trypsin), which can affect the risk of acute pancreatitis. The activation of NFATc3 was also found to encourage inflammation and tissue damage in the pancreas in various other ways.

"In our study, we saw that the aorta, spleen and lungs were also affected. The results therefore suggest that the NFAT protein plays a part in the development of inflammatory diseases on a more general level", says Henrik Thorlacius.

The findings open up new opportunities for research on treatment and drugs, both for acute pancreatitis and for other acute , such as and .

"An effective drug needs to contain a substance that stops the activation of NFATc3 without producing serious side-effects", says Professor Thorlacius.

The NFAT proteins function as transcription factors, which means that they can be bound to the body's DNA and regulate the expression of specific genes in different cells. They have so far primarily been associated with immune cells.

Explore further: Scientists identify possible drug target for acute pancreatitis

More information: 'NFATc3 Regulates Trypsinogen Activation, Neutrophil Recruitment, and Tissue Damage in Acute Pancreatitis in Mice' Published in: Gastroenterology

Related Stories

Scientists identify possible drug target for acute pancreatitis

May 31, 2012
Scientists from the Universities of Illinois and California have found that the inflammatory protein interleukin-6 (IL-6) plays a pivotal role in the duration of acute pancreatitis in animal models with this condition. Their ...

Dendritic cells protect against acute pancreatitis

November 22, 2011
NYU Langone Medical Center researchers have discovered the novel protective role dendritic cells play in the pancreas. The new study, published in the November issue of journal Gastroenterology, shows dendritic cells can ...

Diet rich in vegetables may help stave off acute pancreatitis

June 27, 2012
A diet rich in vegetables could help stave off the development of the serious condition acute pancreatitis, suggests a large study published online in the journal Gut.

Unsaturated fat breakdown leads to complications of acute pancreatitis in obese patients

November 2, 2011
The toxic byproducts produced by the breakdown of unsaturated fats lead to a higher likelihood of severe inflammation, cell death and multi-system organ failure among acute pancreatitis patients who are obese, say researchers ...

Recommended for you

Genomics reveals key macrophages' involvement in systemic sclerosis

January 18, 2018
A new international study has made an important discovery about the key role of macrophages, a type of immune cell, in systemic sclerosis (SSc), a chronic autoimmune disease which currently has no cure.

First vaccine developed against grass pollen allergy

January 18, 2018
Around 400 million people worldwide suffer in some form or other from a grass pollen allergy (rhinitis), with the usual symptoms of runny nose, cough and severe breathing problems. In collaboration with the Viennese firm ...

Researchers discover key driver of atopic dermatitis

January 17, 2018
Severe eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that is driven by an allergic reaction. In their latest study, researchers at La Jolla Institute reveal an important player that promotes ...

Who might benefit from immunotherapy? New study suggests possible marker

January 16, 2018
While immunotherapy has made a big impact on cancer treatment, the fact remains that only about a quarter of patients respond to these treatments.

Researchers identify new way to unmask melanoma cells to the immune system

January 16, 2018
system, which enables these deadly skin cancers to grow and spread.

How the immune system's key organ regenerates itself

January 15, 2018
With advances in cancer immunotherapy splashing across headlines, the immune system's powerful cancer assassins—T cells—have become dinner-table conversation. But hiding in plain sight behind that "T" is the organ from ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.