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Pancreatic adaptive responses in alcohol abuse: Role of the unfolded protein response


The majority of those who drink excessive amounts of alcohol do not develop pancreatic disease. One overarching hypothesis is that alcohol abuse requires additional risk factors, either environmental or genetic, for disease to occur. However, another reason be a result of alcohol-induced activation of adaptive systems that protect the pancreas from the toxic effects of alcohol. We show that mechanisms within the unfolded protein response (UPR) of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) that can lead to protection of the pancreas from pancreatic diseases with alcohol abuse. The remarkable ability of the pancreas to adapt its machinery to alcohol abuse using UPR systems and continue functioning is the likely reason that pancreatitis from alcohol abuse does not occur in the majority of heavy drinkers. These findings indicate that methods to enhance the protective responses of the UPR can provide opportunities for prevention and treatment of pancreatic diseases.

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