Immune system protein could explain pancreatitis

August 31, 2012

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

Does your child really have a food allergy?

July 24, 2017
(HealthDay)—Many people misunderstand what food allergies are, and even doctors can be confused about how to best diagnose them, suggests a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Genetic immune deficiency could hold key to severe childhood infections

July 18, 2017
A gene mutation making young children extremely vulnerable to common viruses may represent a new type of immunodeficiency, according to a University of Queensland researcher.

What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma?

July 18, 2017
What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma in adults? This can be tricky because asthma can stem from several causes and treatment often depends on what is triggering the asthma.

Large multi-ethnic study identifies many new genetic markers for lupus

July 17, 2017
Scientists from an international consortium have identified a large number of new genetic markers that predispose individuals to lupus.

Study finds molecular explanation for struggles of obese asthmatics

July 17, 2017
A large, bouquet-shaped molecule called surfactant protein A, or SP-A, may explain why obese asthma patients have harder-to-treat symptoms than their lean and overweight counterparts, according to a new study led by scientists ...

Team identifies potential cause for lupus

July 14, 2017
Leading rheumatologist and Feinstein Institute for Medical Research Professor Betty Diamond, MD, may have identified a protein as a cause for the adverse reaction of the immune system in patients suffering from lupus. A better ...

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.