Chronic pancreatitis affects nearly 200,000 people in the US. These patients suffer severe and intractable pain — often managed with narcotics — and are at a greatly increased risk of pancreatic cancer. They all eventually develop diabetes. The most reliable way to treat pancreatitis is surgical removal, but this approach is highly invasive, highly morbid, and actually increases the risk of diabetes. We have devised a minimally-invasive chemical method that removes the problematic pancreatic tissue without compromising the crucial insulin- producing aspects of the gland.

Technology Description

By one theory of chronic pancreatitis, the exocrine pancreas — which produces digestive enzymes — creates a toxic environment that then kills off the otherwise healthy insulin-producing islets of the endocrine pancreas. We discovered that infusing pure ethanol into the pancreatic duct of a mouse leads to total destruction of the problematic exocrine pancreas while leaving the endocrine pancreas intact. In a model of chronic pancreatitis, ethanol infusion halted pancreatic islet destruction and improved insulin production. As opposed to traditional pancreatectomy, our method can be performed endoscopically for minimal invasiveness. Also, because ethanol infusion spares the hormonal functions of the pancreas, our method could treat the painful and carcinogenic aspects of pancreatitis while also reducing patients’ risk of developing diabetes.

Advantage

  • Minimally invasive
  • Eliminates cancer risk
  • Alleviates pain
  • Reduces risk of diabetes

Applications

Chronic pancreatitis

Stage of Development

  • in vivo mouse data
  • in situ primate surgical protocol

IP Status

Provisional patent application filed

Featured Innovator

George Gittes, MD