Dr Arjun Kattakayam

Team Guts UK are delighted to announce a brand new research fellowship beginning in 2022 to be led by Dr. Arjun Kattakayam and his team at University of Liverpool for three years, who have been awarded £180,000 for research into pancreatitis.

What is the pancreas?

The pancreas lies behind your stomach and in front of your spine, and produces digestive enzymes that help us digest fat, carbohydrates and protein. The pancreas also produces hormones, such as insulin.

Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. It can be both sudden (acute pancreatitis) or long-standing (chronic pancreatitis).

 Why are Guts UK funding pancreatitis research?

In the UK, 30,000 people each year are affected by acute pancreatitis. There is little data for those living with chronic pancreatitis, but we know there are 12,000 hospital admissions each year.

Acute pancreatitis can be fatal. Sadly, of those who become severely unwell with pancreatitis and require intensive care, one in four will die. Others can spend weeks or months recovering from their attack, potentially needing to learn how to walk or speak again.

Chronic pancreatitis is also life-changing for most. Many people live in pain, risk becoming malnourished or losing dangerous amounts of weight. As with any chronic condition, people may suffer symptoms such as depression or relationship problems.

There is no effective cure or treatment for pancreatitis. We are dedicated to changing that.

What do we already know about pancreatitis?

Part of the function of the pancreas is to make powerful digestive enzymes that help to break down the food and drink that we consume. But in pancreatitis, these enzymes attack the pancreas itself, and can cause life-changing and life-threatening damage. This can cause further damage to other organs like the lungs, heart and kidneys in the most severe cases. Those with damage to multiple organs are often those who become most unwell.

What have Dr Kattakayam and the team discovered about pancreatitis?

Previous research by the University of Liverpool has shown that damage to the powerhouse of the pancreas cells (the mitochondria) is a crucial early step that begins pancreatic inflammation.

The team also know that severe acute pancreatitis is a disease that can progress from near-by damage to distant organ damage. However, it has been noted that distant organ damage can occur, without any evidence of near-by damage to the pancreas.

What does Dr Kattakayam’s work aim to discover?

“We hope to assess whether protecting the mitochondria (cell powerhouses) outside of the pancreas cells (within other cells and organs), reduces the severity of the condition and prevents worsening damage to the pancreas itself.

We will use the most modern scientific equipment and high-powered microscopes to observe the changes happening within these cells. The better we can understand this process, the better we can determine whether medication that has the role of protecting the mitochondria within the cells would be effective, and potentially life-saving.”

There is no effective cure or treatment for pancreatitis. But the more we know about the complex cell changes that occur during pancreatitis, the closer we move towards developing an effective treatment for this devastating disease.

With your donations, we can work harder and faster to fund more projects like Dr Kattakayam’s that could save and change lives. Please donate today.

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