Pancreatitis is a syndrome that is characterized by pain associated with inflammation and damage to the pancreas. Relapsing or chronic pancreatitis can lead to exocrine and endocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Major causes of pancreatitis are alcohol use, cholelithiasis, drug toxicity, and infections. In some cases there may be a genetic basis; however, a significant percentage of cases are idiopathic.
The Acute and Chronic Pancreatitis program supports a broad range of research topics on the etiology and pathogenesis of acute and chronic pancreatitis. Some examples are: the elucidation of mechanisms by which alcohol and drugs induce or promote premature activation of pancreatic enzymes (zymogens) within the pancreas directly or indirectly; the determination of the role of diet, including fat and protein, in the modulation of gene expression and synthesis of various secretagogues; the roles of cytokines, chemokines, adhesion molecules, and inflammatory leukocytes in the initiation and progression of inflammation of the pancreas; the characterization of the molecular mechanisms of pancreatic stellate cell activation leading to increased deposition of extracellular matrix proteins and fibrosis; the characterization of the relationship between pancreatitis, diabetes, obesity, and pancreatic cancer; and the identification and characterization of biomarkers of early cell or tissue perturbation that can be used for diagnosis of the disease.