Ongoing Research Funded by DHF

New Genetic Risk Factor (CLDN2) Found Responsible for Increased Susceptibility to Pancreatitis

Principal Investigator: Beatriz Sosa-Pineda, PhD, Professor of Medicine (Nephrology and Hypertension), Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Pancreatitis is a dangerous inflammatory condition, often associated with considerable socioeconomic risk factors. Usually diagnosed in middle-aged to elderly individuals, and more commonly in men versus women, pancreatitis is responsible for the majority of gastrointestinal disease-related hospital admissions. Although acute to chronic pancreatitis susceptibility results from a combination of genetic, metabolic, and environmental factors, it remains challenging to predict the onset, progression, and severity of the disease. Understanding how distinct genetic risk factors affect the pathologic outcome in pancreatitis is key to developing better diagnostic and therapeutic tools for physicians treating patients. The Sosa-Pineda team is beginning to dissect the role of claudin-2 (CLDN2), a newly identified pancreatitis risk factor, in pancreatic ductal cell function and pancreatitis outcome. The investigators will use an animal model for these new studies that will complement previous results from Dr. Sosa-Pineda’s lab using CLDN2 knockout mice and pancreatic ductal cell cultures. The investigators expect to demonstrate that sustained expression of this gene exacerbates tissue injury, such as inflammation and fibrosis in chronic pancreatitis.  Illuminating a genetic pathway of this disease will enable further research to provide better, earlier diagnosis and targeted therapies for pancreatitis patients, allowing for better health outcomes.

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