Now research in Kelly Tappenden's laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers hope to patients who have had parts of their small intestine surgically removed, making it difficult for them to absorb nutrients. Tappenden has found that adding butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid, to an intravenous nutrition solution not only causes intestine to grow back but makes it more functional as well.
The research will be published as the 2004 Harry M. Vars Award paper in the July/August issue of the Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.
"Babies born at 28 to 32 weeks sometimes develop necrotizing enterocolitis, a kind of gangrene of the intestine," said Tappenden, a professor of nutritional sciences. "Last year, 11.6 percent of births in the United States were preterm infants, and removing necrotized intestine is the most common surgical emergency in preemies.
"Surgery saves their lives, but with so much intestine removed, they're unable to digest or absorb nutrients. They can't eat by mouth like the rest of us do, and we have to use a process called total parenteral nutrition to feed them intravenously," she said.
Around 10,000 patients in the United States are totally reliant on intravenous feeding because their intestines have been surgically shortened, Tappenden said.
"Being on an IV for all a person's nutritional needs really affects his quality of life, and it puts him at risk for long-term complications, such as bone demineralization and liver failure. Many of these children eventually require organ transplants to survive. Our goal is to take kids who've had this resection and cause their gut to gr
Contact: Phyllis Picklesimer
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign