Butyrate promotes epithelial cell healing and improves symptoms when administered rectally in patients with distal ulcerative colitis (UC). It was hypothesized that butyrate may enhance healing in patients with UC by stimulating colonocyte proliferation and/or protein production. Mucosa from the descending colon was obtained from patients with UC (n = 5), Crohn's disease (n = 8), diverticulitis (n = 6), and cancer (normal tissue 10 cm from tumor; n = 10). Epithelial cells were isolated using dispase/collagenase and differential sedimentation and incubated for 4 hr at 37°C with either Na butyrate (10 mM) or NaCl (10 mM). Protein synthesis was assessed by [14C]leucine incorporation and proliferation was determined with [3H]thymidine. Mean viability and purity were >88%. Spontaneous proliferation was significantly increased in UC when compared to diverticulitis and normal controls. Butyrate significantly increased protein synthesis in UC epithelial cells when compared to saline control. The therapeutic effects of butyrate in patients with UC may be due to its use by epithelial cells as a metabolic fuel to increase protein production and promote healing.
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