Damage to the stomach lining is a common consequence of the liver disease cirrhosis. Inadequate blood flow to the liver causes arteries feeding the mucus membranes to become dilated. The stomach lining becomes prone to bleeding and bruising. The technical name for this condition is portal hypertensive gastropathy (PHG). Although not usually life-threatening, PHG can result in vomiting blood, anemia, or digestive issues. Inderal (propranolol), a multipurpose psychotropic mediation, has been successfully employed in the treatment of PHG in adults. A study conducted with rats tested the hypothesis that early and chronic administration of Inderal could actually prevent the development of PHG, or at least lessen its severity.
Researchers in the Inderal study performed surgery on a group of rats to alter blood flow to the liver. In short order, each rat developed full-blown cirrhosis, a liver disease characterized by unhealthy and hardened tissue. An experimental group of rats was administered Inderal on a strict regimen, while the control group only received placebo. After 8 to 10 weeks of treatment, surviving rats were sacrificed and dissected. Researchers carefully examined both liver and stomach lining tissue, quantifying the extent of cirrhosis and PHG. Several animals in the control and experimental group died earlier from complications and were not included in the final analysis.
The results of the study were significant and confirmed many earlier experiments. In addition, the experimental hypothesis was confirmed. Rats pretreated with Inderal were shielded from the development of PHG, a typical development with liver disease. The rats in the drug group also showed no measurable ill effects from their treatment regimen when compared with the placebo group. Inderal appears to have the beneficial quality of regulating blood flow and blood vessel growth in and around damaged tissue. Researchers knew that this medication effectively treats PHG, but this study offered sound support to the notion that prevention is also a real possibility.
For humans, the potential for Inderal to improve quality of life for patients with liver disease is worth exploring. If PHG can be effectively prevented, then treatment becomes a much less complicated proposition. Those with PHG often experience indigestion or even anemia from loss of blood. Inderal offers the chance to prevent collateral damage from liver disease. More research will answer the question of whether the same principles of rat biochemistry apply in humans, too.
- MedlinePlus Drug Information [Internet]. (n.d.). Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine. Propranolol oral. Retrieved April 4, 2012, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682607.html
- Rafailidis, S., Demertzidis, C., Ballas, K., Alatsakis, M., Symeonidis, N., Pavlidis, T., et al. (2009). Effect of early propranolol administration on portal hypertensive gastropathy in cirrhotic rats. World Journal of Gastroenterology, 15(34), 4284-4289. Retrieved April 4, 2012, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2744184/pdf/WJG-15-4284.pdf?tool=pmcentrez
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