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Researchers identify molecular alterations in patients with irritable bowel syndrome

BALTIMORE, Md. Novel research shows that alterations in serotonin signaling in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract are present in patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). These data shed light on the alterations in gut motility, secretion, sensation, as well as the clinical manifestations of IBS, which include abdominal discomfort, pain, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea.

The study findings were presented today by two lead investigators from the University of Vermont, Peter Moses, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of Clinical Research in the Digestive Diseases, and Gary Mawe, Ph.D., Professor of Anatomy and Neurobiology, in an oral presentation during the plenary session at the 68th Annual Scientific Meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology in Baltimore.

"Serotonin is a critical signaling molecule necessary for normal gut function when released, it causes gut motility and secretion, and triggers signals to the brain and spinal cord," said Moses. "Our finding that key elements of serotonin signaling are changed in IBS lends credibility to the notion that IBS is not simply a psychological or social disorder as was once thought, but instead due to altered gut biochemistry and interactions between the gut and the brain."

Serotonin (5-HT) is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter and signaling molecule. Ninety-five percent of all serotonin is localized in the GI tract where it plays a key role in the motor, sensory and secretory functions of the gut. For some time, scientists have suspected that alterations in serotonin may contribute to abnormal conditions in the GI tract.

"Now we have a perspective on molecular changes in the intestines of individuals with IBS that we did not have before," said Mawe. "We identified a significant decrease in the serotonin transporter in cells that form the inner lining of the bowel the same serotonin transporter that is located in cells in the brain. In the gut, this t
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Contact: Jennifer Nachbur
jennifer.nachbur@uvm.edu
802-656-7875
University of Vermont
13-Oct-2003


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