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Genetic link between pancreatitis and alcohol consumption, says Pitt team
Date:11/12/2012

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 12, 2012 A new study published online today in Nature Genetics reveals a genetic link between chronic pancreatitis and alcohol consumption. Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and more than 25 other health centers across the United States found a genetic variant on chromosome X near the claudin-2 gene (CLDN2) that predicts which men who are heavy drinkers are at high risk of developing chronic pancreatitis. This finding enables doctors to identify people with early signs of pancreatitis or an attack of acute pancreatitis who are at very high risk for progressing to chronic pancreatitis, allowing them to take preventative action to slow the development of the disease, and give the pancreas a chance to heal. Once an individual develops pancreatitis it takes several years for the pancreas to deteriorate.

"The discovery that chronic pancreatitis has a genetic basis solves a major mystery about why some people develop chronic pancreatitis and others do not," said David C. Whitcomb, M.D., professor of medicine, cell biology and physiology, and human genetics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and lead author of the report. "We also knew there was an unexpected higher risk of men developing pancreatitis with alcohol consumption, but until now we weren't sure why. Our discovery of this new genetic variant on chromosome X helps explain this mystery as well."

Over 100,000 Americans suffer from chronic pancreatitis, a progressive inflammatory disease characterized by abdominal pain and permanent damage to the pancreas. Most studies report excessive alcohol consumption as the major risk factor for adult-onset chronic pancreatitis. However, according to Dr. Whitcomb, who also is chief of the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition, only 3 percent of individuals who are alcoholics develop chronic pancreatitis, suggesting a pancreas-specific risk factor.

The study was conduc
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Contact: Cristina Mestre
MestreCA@upmc.edu
412-586-9776
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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