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World J Gastroenterol. Mar 21, 2010; 16(11): 1314-1320
Published online Mar 21, 2010. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v16.i11.1314
Alcoholic pancreatitis: Lessons from the liver
Dahn L Clemens, Katrina J Mahan
Dahn L Clemens, Katrina J Mahan, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198-8090, United States; Research Service, Veterans Administration Medical Center, 4101 Woolworth Avenue, Omaha, NE 68105, United States
Author contributions: Clemens DL and Mahan KJ contributed equally to this work.
Supported by (in part) Grant No. AA016310 to Clemens DL
Correspondence to: Dahn L Clemens, PhD, Research Service, Veterans Administration Medical Center, 4101 Woolworth Avenue, Omaha, NE 68105, United States.
Telephone: +1-402-9953738 Fax: +1-402-4490604
Received: December 21, 2009
Revised: January 28, 2010
Accepted: February 4, 2010
Published online: March 21, 2010

The association between alcohol consumption and pancreatitis has been recognized for over 100 years. Despite the fact that this association is well recognized, the mechanisms by which alcohol abuse leads to pancreatic tissue damage are not entirely clear. Alcohol abuse is the major factor associated with pancreatitis in the Western world. Interestingly, although most cases of chronic pancreatitis and many cases of acute pancreatitis are associated with alcohol abuse, only a small percentage of individuals who abuse alcohol develop this disease. This situation is reminiscent of the association between alcohol abuse and the incidence of alcoholic liver disease. The liver and the pancreas are developmentally very closely related. Even though these two organs are quite different, they exhibit a number of general structural and functional similarities. Furthermore, the diseases mediated by alcohol abuse in these organs exhibit some striking similarities. The diseases in both organs are characterized by parenchymal cell damage, activation of stellate cells, aberrant wound healing, and fibrosis. Because of the similarities between the liver and the pancreas, and the alcohol-associated diseases of these organs, we may be able to apply much of the knowledge that we have gained regarding the effects of alcohol on the liver to the pancreas.

Keywords: Alcoholic pancreatitis, Alcohol metabolism, Stellate cells, Fibrosis