Department of Statistics

Case study: Tackling toxins in pancreatitis

Acute pancreatitis, a sudden inflammation of the pancreas, is dangerous – there's no specific treatment and 20‑30% of patients die. What researchers do know is that the shock triggered by acute pancreatitis causes toxic substances to enter lymph fluid in the gut, and these toxins are then delivered to other organs, especially the heart and lungs.

Researchers, led by doctor and PhD student Anubhav Mittal and his supervisors Anthony Phillips, a Senior Lecturer and Director of the Applied Surgery and Metabolism Laboratory and Professor John Windsor, Director of the Pancreas Research Group at The University of Auckland, wanted to survey proteins in lymph during acute pancreatitis for clues on why it might become poisonous.

SCC consultant Kathy Ruggiero’s expertise was invaluable, says Anubhav. “Kathy, as the stats expert, played a critical role in first helping us design the study appropriately to ensure that our tissue samples from experimental-versus-control groups were dealt with in a way that ensured there was no bias.

“Then, she helped us analyse the data to identify the proteins that had changed between the groups. This was critical work.”

The research was a success, pinpointing some enzymes and certain proteins that are now being further scrutinised.

The research was called “The Proteome of Mesenteric Lymph During Acute Pancreatitis and Implications for Treatment.” It was supported by funding from Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, The University of Auckland Research Committee, the Health Research Council of New Zealand and the Auckland Medical Research Fund.