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Tuesday, 10 July, 2001, 00:01 GMT 01:01 UK
Chilli link to bowel disorders
Bowel cancer scans
Scientists hope the link could be used to help beat pain
Studies into the body's reaction to chilli peppers could provide a clue to the pain and sensitivity of bowel disease, scientists say.

Researchers had already established that chillies cause their fiery reaction because they stimulate a particular molecular trigger, or receptor in the mouth.

These chilli receptors are found on sensory nerve fibres and are triggered when they are exposed to heat, or to the 'burning' ingredients of chilli peppers.

This is remarkable evidence - and a huge clue to treating chronic pain in bowel disorders

Professor Praveen Anand
Now researchers from Hammersmith Hospital and the Imperial College School of Medicine, in London, have found that the chilli-sensitive molecule, called VR1, is also linked with inflammatory bowel conditions.

These inflammatory bowel conditions include Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.

Drug hope

And the team, led by Professor Praveen Anand, discovered a dramatic increase in the number of "chilli-receptors" in the guts of those patients who were suffering from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

IBD affects about one in 2,000 people in the UK.

Professor Anand, head of the Peripheral Neuropathy Unit, at Hammersmith Hospital, said the presence of VR1 receptors increased the sensitivity of the gut and produced pain and other symptoms.

And that if a drug could be found to block the receptor it could provide a new treatment for IBD.

Professor Anand said: "This is remarkable evidence - and a huge clue to treating chronic pain in bowel disorders.

"The development of drugs to block these excessive chilli receptors would help to conquer pain in a wide range of bowel diseases and maybe even cancers."

See also:

22 Jun 01 | Health
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21 Apr 99 | Medical notes
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