Chronic pancreatitis – permanent inflammation of the pancreas – can cause severe stomach pain and illness as well as leading to complications such as diabetes. Patients often manage the illness through lifestyle changes such as avoiding alcohol, stopping smoking and eating a low-fat diet. In the search for better treatment strategies attention has been turned to a nutrient transporter called PepT1. Found in the membranes of pancreatic cells, PepT1 is responsible for absorbing protein into the cells. However in patients with chronic pancreatitis, the transporter is often over-produced in the inflamed cells – here showing up as a brown tinge in pancreatic tissue taken from a patient with the disease. Scientists are planning to hijack PepT1 as a route for drug delivery, by modifying existing anti-inflammatory treatments so the transporter can absorb them. If successful their method could be also be used to treat pancreatic cancer, where PepT1 is also over expressed.
Written by Manisha Lalloo