Genes point to potential treatments for digestive diseases

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Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) say they have identified a new molecular pathway critical for maintaining the smooth muscle tone that allows the passage of materials through the digestive system. This finding, based on studying calcium ion-controlled pathways in mice, may lead to new treatments for a host of digestive disorders, ranging from common gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) to swallowing disorders, incontinence, and pancreatitis.

The team’s study (“The Molecular Basis of the Genesis of Basal Tone in Internal Anal Sphincter”) was published in Nature Communications.

“We are excited about the potential to target identified genes to treat disorders such as reflux and incontinence,” said Ronghua ZhuGe, PhD, associate professor of microbiology and physiological systems and a senior author of the study. “Knowing how these muscles stay contracted for such long periods of time will allow us to develop potential new treatments for these diseases. The next step is to see whether this molecular mechanism in mice also operates in humans.”

The human body, and those of other mammals, contains a number of ring-shaped structures made of smooth muscle encircling openings in hollow organs such as the intestines and bladder that are called sphincters. Smooth muscle is controlled involuntarily, unlike the muscles we use to walk, for example, so that we don’t need to consciously move digested food from stomach to small intestine.

Read full, original post: Genetic Approach May Lead to New Treatments for Digestive Diseases

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