A Missing Protein Could be a Major Cause of Eosinophilic Esophagitis

According to a story from the National Institutes of Health, a recent study has revealed that the absence of a specific protein in the cells lining the esophagus could be a major cause of the tissue damage and inflammation that occurs in eosinophilic esophagitis. The protein in question is known as SPINK7, and biopsies revealed that it was almost entirely absent in eosinophilic esophagitis patients. Meanwhile, healthy people had normal amounts. In healthy people, SPINK7 suppresses inflammation and maintains the structure of tissue.

Eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) is an inflammatory, allergic condition that is characterized by the involvement of the esophagus and the crucial role played by eosinophils, a form of white blood cell. The nature of this disease is not well understood, but awareness and research have intensified in recent years. Eosinophil cells appear in high concentrations in the lining of the esophagus. Since eosinophils play an active role in allergic reactions, the standard theory is that eosinophilic esophagitis could be due to food allergy. Treatment includes medication to reduce inflammation and dietary changes to avoid the intake of foods that provoked the reaction. Some patients may need periodic procedures to dilate the esophagus. The effectiveness of dietary changes reinforces the role that allergies may play. To learn more about eosinophilic esophagitis, click here.

Interestingly, a drug used for the treatment of emphysema was able to reverse inflammation and damage in tissues that lacked SPINK7. Many food items carry enzymes that could potentially damage human tissue, but SPINK7 is important in suppressing any potential damage. When the SPINK7 gene was shut off, the functionality of the esophagus was reduced, and the tissues produced cytokines, which can attract eosinophils and start the inflammatory response.

The treatment that was able to successfully reverse inflammation was alpha-1 anti-trypsin (A1AT). The lab test demonstrated that A1AT was effective, and the authors suggested that this discovery warranted further trials and study to examine more thoroughly the impact that this treatment could have for patients with eosinophilic esophagitis. Hopefully, more studies will begin soon so that A1AT be a new, approved treatment option for these patients.


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