Dr Rajarshi Mukherjee

2007 Amelie Waring Fellow

Title: Mitochondrial injury in the pathogenesis of necrotizing pancreatitis

Project Start Date: August 2007

Completion Date: August 2010


Pancreatitis is a very common and serious illness that can have devastating consequences. The pancreas makes digestive juice containing enzymes, which break down food to be absorbed, but in pancreatitis the enzymes attack the pancreas itself. Pancreatitis is usually caused by gallstones, which can make bile go into the pancreas, or by drinking excess alcohol, which is turned into dangerous chemicals in the pancreas. One in five people with pancreatitis have severe disease that may need intensive care and treatment in hospital for many months that can lead to chronic illness or death. Unfortunately even after years of research there are few treatments for pancreatitis, and still no useful drugs, so this disease must be understood better to improve the management of it.

My research will be conducted with a leading team of scientists and hospital doctors who have discovered that calcium is the most important signal in the release of enzymes from the cells of the pancreas, and that when the calcium signals go wrong, the cells are damaged and pancreatitis develops. Building on this work, the aim of this project is to find out how alcohol and bile damage the cells of the pancreas and how such damage and its devastating effects can be prevented or limited. The project will study what goes wrong with the mitochondria, part of cells in the pancreas that make energy needed by cells to live and work normally. Experiments will be conducted using high-powered microscopes that show changes in living cells, including human cells given freely and willingly by pancreas patients. The research will test drugs that could be used to prevent or treat pancreatitis, and so could improve the outcome of the many patients who suffer from this disease.