Topical protection of human esophageal mucosal integrity

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2015 Jun 15;308(12):G975-80. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00424.2014. Epub 2015 Apr 23.


Patients with nonerosive reflux disease exhibit impaired esophageal mucosal integrity, which may underlie enhanced reflux perception. In vitro topical application of an alginate solution can protect mucosal biopsies against acid-induced changes in transepithelial electrical resistance (TER). We aimed to confirm this finding in a second model using 3D cell cultures and to assess prolonged protection in a biopsy model. We assessed the protective effect of a topically applied alginate solution 1 h after application. 3D cell cultures were grown by using an air-liquid interface and were studied in Ussing chambers. The apical surface was "protected" with 200 μl of either alginate or viscous control or was unprotected. The tissue was exposed to pH 3 + bile acid solution for 30 min and TER change was calculated. Distal esophageal mucosal biopsies were taken from 12 patients and studied in Ussing chambers. The biopsies were coated with either alginate or viscous control solution. The biopsies were then bathed in pH 7.4 solution for 1 h. The luminal chamber solution was replaced with pH 2 solution for 30 min. Percentage changes in TER were recorded. In five biopsies fluorescein-labeled alginate solution was used to allow immunohistological localization of the alginate after 1 h. In the cell culture model, alginate solution protected tissue against acid-induced change in TER. In biopsies, 60 min after protection with alginate solution, the acidic exposure caused a -8.3 ± 2.2% change in TER compared with -25.1 ± 4.5% change after protection with the viscous control (P < 0.05). Labeled alginate could be seen coating the luminal surface in all cases. In vitro, alginate solutions can adhere to the esophageal mucosa for up to 1 h and exert a topical protectant effect. Durable topical protectants can be further explored as first-line/add-on therapies for gastroesophageal reflux disease.

Keywords: esophageal mucosa; gastroesophageal reflux disease; topical mucosal protection.

MeSH terms

  • Bile Acids and Salts / metabolism
  • Biopsy
  • Electric Impedance
  • Esophageal pH Monitoring*
  • Esophagus / metabolism
  • Esophagus / pathology*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / metabolism
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / pathology*
  • Gastroesophageal Reflux / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Mucous Membrane / metabolism
  • Mucous Membrane / pathology*
  • Tissue Culture Techniques / methods


  • Bile Acids and Salts