A recent Mayo Clinic study has shown that cooling the pancreas is a viable option for treating acute pancreatitis, a potentially lethal condition marked by inflammation and injury of the pancreas.
While ice often is recommended as a common remedy for a break or sprain, the healing power of cooling internal organs is a fairly new discovery. The results of the study of pancreas cooling done on rats were published in the journal Gastroenterology.Study authors Biswajit Khatua, Ph.D., Vijay Singh, M.B.B.S., and Cristiane de Oliveira, Ph.D.
Dr. Vijay Singh, a gastroenterologist and senior author of the study, says treating pancreatitis is challenging because the condition can arise from different causes and continue despite treatment since several parallel cellular pathways are involved. To address the many ways in which acute pancreatitis occurs and progresses, the authors planned an approach that could work broadly: cooling.
"This method helps in multiple ways," Dr. Singh says. "One is inhibition of parallel pathways as well as by sequential inhibition, or slowing each step of a response by a small extent to get a large overall effect."
Researchers induced two different types of acute pancreatitis in rats — a mild and a severe type with different molecular causes. The cooling procedure involved inserting a balloon into the stomach, which covers much of the pancreas, and circulating cold water to create a sort of internal ice pack.
The researchers found that water at 87.8 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit slows cellular injury in the milder model, while water at 77 degrees Fahrenheit slows injury both locally and systemically in the severe model. They also saw that cooling only the stomach and the pancreas avoided complications associated with generalized hypothermia.
In humans, acute pancreatitis is usually diagnosed in the emergency room, and the severity is hard to predict, according to the paper. The authors suggest that by identifying the severity of a patient's condition and cooling their pancreas using water at the appropriate temperature, patients may have shorter hospital stays. The broad, rapid effect of cooling could prevent the condition from worsening in the first several hours or days until it resolves.
Since the tools for this intervention already exist for other purposes, the researchers hope this method of prediction and intervention for acute pancreatitis will advance to the next stage of research. They have begun other animal tests and hope to move into clinical trials as soon as possible.
At this point, it seems that the concept of pancreatic cooling is heating up.
This article was first featured on Mayo Clinic News Center.
Meet other people, talking about pancreatic disorders, including pancreatitis on Mayo Clinic Connect – where you can join the conversation, share your experiences, ask questions, and discover your support network. Here are some discussions you might like to follow...