University of Arizona Obtains $1.9 Million U.S. Government Grant To Study Key Protein’s Role in Bowel Disease

University of Arizona Obtains $1.9 Million U.S. Government Grant To Study Key Protein’s Role in Bowel Disease
University of Arizona scientists have received a $1.9 million U.S. government grant to study how a protein helps maintain a healthy mix of gut bacteria, and how interfering with the protein can lead to bowel disease and colon cancer. The Steele Children’s Research Center study will focus on the NHE8 protein, which helps facilitate sodium absorption in the gut and plays other roles there. Among other things, sodium absorption affects the gut's ability to convert nutrients the body will use for energy and other functions. Dr. Fayez K. Ghishan and his colleagues at the center were the first researchers to characterize NHE8's function in the intestine. A division of the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, is supplying the five-year grant. Ghishan and Dr. Hua Xu will lead the study. Ghishan said in a press release that until a recent study his team did, the researchers thought NHE8 was involved only in sodium absorption. They discovered that deleting NHE8's function in the gut leads to "goblet cell dysfunction, changes in the microbiota, and the hyper-proliferation of epithelial cells." And those changes lead to colon cancer. Goblet cells secrete mucus, a protective barrier lining the gut. Microbiota is the term scientists use to refer to the mix of bacteria in the gut. And epithelial cells line hollow organs
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