Hereditary pancreatitis is a genetic condition characterized by recurrent episodes of inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis). The pancreas produces enzymes that help digest food, and it also produces insulin, a hormone that controls blood sugar levels in the body. Episodes of pancreatitis can lead to permanent tissue damage and loss of pancreatic function.
Mutations in the PRSS1 gene cause most cases of hereditary pancreatitis. The PRSS1 gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called cationic trypsinogen. This enzyme is produced in the pancreas and helps with the digestion of food. When cationic trypsinogen is needed, it is released (secreted) from the pancreas and transported to the small intestine, where it is cut (cleaved) into its working or active form called trypsin. When digestion is complete and trypsin is no longer needed, the enzyme is broken down.
Hereditary pancreatitis is thought to be a rare condition. In Europe, its prevalence is estimated to be 3 to 6 per million individuals.
When hereditary pancreatitis is caused by mutations in the PRSS1 gene, it is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, which means one copy of the altered gene in each cell is sufficient to cause the disorder. In some cases, an affected person inherits the PRSS1 gene mutation from one affected parent. Other cases result from new mutations in the gene and occur in people with no history of the disorder in their family.
Published Date: October 01, 2012Published By: National Institutes of Health