Mr Damian Mole (Pancreatitis)
Institution: University of Edinburgh
Title: Isolation and modulation of the hepatic cytokine response to acute pancreatitis
Project Start Date: 1 August 2003
Completion Date: 31 July 2005
Acute pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas usually caused by gallstones or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. Severe attacks can kill patients and many sufferers are extremely ill because of damage to vital organs and need to be treated in an intensive care unit. This damage to organs such as the gut, lungs, kidneys and cardiovascular system, during severe pancreatitis is caused in part by inflammatory molecules called cytokines. These inflammatory molecules are an essential part of normal immune system function, but when released in excessive or imbalanced amounts can be damaging. The liver contains many immune system cells, and therefore may play an important role in producing inflammatory molecules during acute pancreatitis.
Mr Mole’s study investigated whether these immune cells within the liver overreact during acute pancreatitis and increase the damage caused to body organs. To prevent or reduce the damage done to body organs, in addition to this work, they also developed new mini-proteins called anti-endotoxin peptides. These peptides may bind to the surface of immune cells in the liver and reduce the number of inflammatory molecules produced and thereby reduce the damage done to other organs. The research team are currently developing a form of these peptides which can be safely given as an injection. In the future it may be possible to administer them as an injection after patients arrive in hospital with a diagnosis of severe acute pancreatitis to help prevent organ damage.