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Findings may help keep pancreatic disease off the menu
Date:4/7/2011

WASHINGTON, April 7, 2011 Timing is everything. That's especially true when it comes to the activation of enzymes created by the pancreas to break down food. When the timing is right, those enzymes are activated only when they reach the gut, where they get to work releasing and distributing nutrients that we need to survive. If the timing is wrong and the enzymes are activated too soon, they break down the pancreas itself, which is painful and sometimes fatal.

Fortunately, most of the time the body is a master timekeeper and has a game plan for what to do if a signaling misfire activates those enzymes too soon. But sometimes even those natural defense mechanisms aren't enough to thwart pancreatitis, making the pursuit of a better understanding of the enzymes' behavior a high priority for patients and physicians.

On Wednesday, April 13, an international research team determined to figure out and eventually manipulate the activation of such enzymes will present an important new finding at the Experimental Biology 2011 meeting in Washington, D.C.

"Acute pancreatitis is the most frequent disease of the pancreas, diabetes is the most prevalent chronic disease of the pancreas and pancreatic cancer is one of the most devastating cancers. Our finding could in the future arm us to better battle or to prevent these serious diseases," explains Mara I. Vaccaro, who oversaw the team's work and who will give a talk about their finding at 10:25 a.m. in Room 207A of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Writing in a Journal of Biological Chemistry "Paper of the Week" last month, Vaccaro's team identified for the first time a cellular process that the pancreas uses to selectively detect and degrade activated enzymes before they can digest the organ, avoiding the progression of disease.

The research team, which included participants from the University of Buenos Aires, the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in
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Contact: Angela Hopp
ahopp@asbmb.org
301-634-7389
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Source:Eurekalert

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