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How Alcohol Causes Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is swelling of the pancreas.There are two different forms of this disease – acute type and the chronic type. Nearly 80,000 fresh cases of this disease are reported every year in the United States, with 20 percent of these cases being severe. Type 2 diabetes patients have a 2.8 times higher risk of getting this disease. However, it is the consumption of alcohol which is cited as the most common cause of this disease. Researchers at the University of Toronto and University Health Network, Canada discovered the underlying mechanism by which alcohol causes the destruction of pancreas. This article tries to gain further insight on this topic.

Knowledge Gained from Research:

  • The tests were carried out in the laboratory on experimental mice as models.
  • The researchers tried to mimic the state of the pancreas of people suffering from pancreatitis.
  • The mice were fed alcohol along with their diet and given the drug carbachol.
  • This led to the development of inflammation in the pancreas of the mice.
  • This state of the mice precisely resembled the state of pancreas in patients consuming excessive amount of alcohol.
  • Scientists earlier believed that the exposure to alcohol and carbachol drug caused pancreatitis in mice because of the release of small packs of fluids by the pancreatic cells.
  • These packs were supposed to contain some harmful enzymes released in wrong places.
  • Enzymes are chemical substances which either initiate or speed up vital chemical reactions in our body.
  • Scientists knew that the release of these small packets of enzymes by the pancreatic cells is caused by a particular protein.
  • Proteins are naturally occurring chemical substances which provide nourishment to all kinds of cells in the body.
  • This study identified the protein to be as VAMP8.
  • It is found to play a vital role in causing the inappropriate release of the small packs of enzymes in mice when they were exposed to alcohol and carbachol.
  • The group of rats lacking VAMP8 protein were found to have reduced pancreatitis on exposure to alcohol and carbachol.
  • Severe upper abdominal pain and vomiting are some of the prominent signs of this disease.

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