03 Jun Single Protein Offers Hope to Pancreatitis Patients
Chronic pancreatitis can cause severe pain in the abdomen, pain that can travel up the back and into the neck. While Lone Star doctors do not necessarily treat the disease itself, we do offer multiple treatments for the pain caused by chronic pancreatitis. So we are pleased to learn of recently published research showing that a single protein naturally produced in human cells offers hope to pancreatitis patients of a possible cure.
Pancreatitis can be either acute or chronic. In an acute situation, onset is sudden, and the pain can be quite debilitating. Unfortunately, some cases of acute pancreatitis become chronic despite the best efforts to treat the disease. To us, this is the more important aspect of the recently published research. If this protein proves to be an effective treatment for acute pancreatitis, it could possibly prevent acute cases from becoming chronic.
Inflammation of the Pancreas
In the simplest possible terms, pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas. That’s what the suffix ‘itis’ means in medical terminology. But just knowing the pancreas is inflamed doesn’t tell us much. The question is one of why inflammation is present.
Under normal conditions, the digestive enzymes produced by the pancreas flow through small tubes by which they enter the digestive system. But in a pancreatitis patient, those enzymes get trapped in the pancreas. You end up with a situation in which the enzymes start attacking the organ itself.
Symptoms include pain, nausea, vomiting, and fever. Initial treatment is designed to reduce inflammation and deal with whatever is blocking digestive enzymes from escaping.
Pancreatitis and the ERR ɣ Protein
In a search for a better understanding of pancreatitis treatment, researchers at the Sulk institute for Biologic Studies discovered that a protein known as estrogen-related receptor gamma (ERR ɣ) somehow plays a role in pancreatic function. This protein inhibits pancreatic auto-digestion in mice, leading researchers to investigate its behavior in humans.
Testing on human cells revealed that pancreatitis patients have less of this protein in the cells affected by the disease. This leads Salk researchers to believe that regulating the protein could be the key to treating pancreatitis. They also suggest protein regulation could prevent pancreatitis onset and perhaps even pancreatic cancer as well.
There is still much to learn about this protein and its role in pancreatic function. Hopefully, more research will eventually lead to better treatments and preventive measures. In the meantime, though, pancreatitis patients must work closely with their medical providers to treat the disease.
Addressing Chronic Pain
If you suffer from chronic pancreatitis, you may still experience significant pain even though the disease is under control. We have options you can look at. One option is the celiac plexus block, an injection treatment that blocks pain signals traveling from the celiac plexus nerve group in your abdomen up to your brain. This procedure is ideal if prescription pain medication isn’t helping.
Another option is the spinal cord stimulation implant. Spinal cord stimulators rely on electrical signals to block pain signals. Instead, patients normally report a tingling feeling that is much less uncomfortable, and possibly even somewhat pleasant.
Chronic pain is never a good thing. When it is associated with an underlying disease, like chronic pancreatitis, pain management becomes even more critical. That is something we take very seriously here at Lone Star Pain Medicine.
If you are a chronic pancreatitis patient and your current treatments are not offering satisfactory pain relief, we encourage you to make an appointment to visit our clinic. We may have just the right treatment to help you feel better and get back to normal life.