May 2, 2012

Breaking: New Study Links Barrett's Esophagus to Bile Reflux

Good news and bad news from the Rochester Medical Center.  A new study led by Dr. Jeffrey Peters -- an expert in esophageal and stomach surgery -- indicates a link between the dreaded Barrett's esophagus and bile reflux.   According to the study, published in the Annals of Surgery and summarized in an  April 24th Science Daily article,

Peters' team found that bile that washes up from the stomach into the esophagus shuts off genes responsible for the normal, skin-like lining of the organ, and turns on genes that produce the intestine-like lining that is the hallmark of Barrett's.  While previous research established that reflux components encouraged the development of intestinal tissue in the esophagus that alone was never enough to produce the changes that led to Barrett's.  
"The main leap this study makes is that normal esophageal cell growth must be turned off and intestinal cell growth must be turned on in order for the disease to take hold," noted Peters, who is president elect of the International Society of Diseases of the Esophagus. "We found that bile promotes both processes." 
[Emphasis mine.]
The jury is still out whether treating bile reflux with medication works.  According to the study's co-author, Dr. Tony Godfrey, "the only way to stop all reflux components, including bile, is to surgically reconstruct the faulty barrier between the esophagus and the stomach."


Citation:  Marie Reveiller, Sayak Ghatak, Liana Toia, Irina Kalatskaya, Lincoln Stein, Mary DʼSouza, Zhongren Zhou, Santhoshi Bandla, William E. Gooding, Tony E. Godfrey, Jeffrey H. Peters. Bile Exposure Inhibits Expression of Squamous Differentiation Genes in Human Esophageal Epithelial CellsAnnals of Surgery, 2012; : 1 DOI:10.1097/SLA.0b013e3182512af9


Mayo Clinic's page on Bile Reflux


  1. Have you seen the new Linx system? A ring of magnetic beads is attached around the base of the esophagus near the LES.
    Here is the link to this new development only a couple of years old. I am considering having it if it becomes necessary.

  2. Hi A,
    I have! Thanks for the link. I did a short post on it a few weeks ago you may want to check out:

    I'm so anti-medication and anti-procedure, I'm hoping I can hold out and use diet and other lifestyle therapies to manage my GERD. But it's good progress is being made on less invasive surgeries -- and the med community is ramping up their effort to investigate GI issues.