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New local clinic to study functional disorders

By : Daniel Richards


Binghamton University researchers are helping to spearhead the cre- ation of a new clinic to study unconnected physical ailments through a partnership with a local health care provider.

The Disorders of Function Clinic is a joint venture between the University’s Institute for Primary and Preventative Healthcare (IPPH) and Binghamton-based Valley Healthcare.

“The clinic will be among the first of its kind to focus specifically on functional disorders and provides us a unique opportunity to study these mystifying conditions,” said IPPH director Gary James. Functional disorders include a number of medical problems such as irritable bowel syndrome, non-cardiac chest pain, chronic fatigue and migraine headaches — ailments for which doctors can find no chemical or physical justification.

Although about 20 million people in the United States suffer from particular symptoms and seek treatment, progress in understanding and treating these disorders has been limited. Why? Because patients often see specialists who treat them for only one predominant symptom and ignore all others as being co-morbidities — conditions that are not associated with the predominant symptom.

The study of co-morbidities has been of interest to Valley Healthcare gastroenterologist Dr. Marcelo Barreiro for many years and he is collecting a wide range of medical data for the clinic from test patients at his offices.

For example, while treating patients with irritable bowel syndrome, he noticed that they often suffered multiple symptoms that affected every bodily system. “Treating only the predominant symptoms dictates a fragmented care, which has gotten us nowhere in treating these people,” Barreiro said.

That’s why Barreiro, with help from James and other IPPH researchers, will look for connections among the symptoms and possible biomarkers to see if they can better characterize the nature and causes of the disorders.

Ultimately, James and Barreiro hope to discover whether patients are suffering from one disorder with manifestations in many organ systems or from several separate disorders; whether these disorders have a common pathogenesis such as stress, hormones or childhood illness; and whether heredity plays a role. The clinic will also bring together resources from the Biomedical Anthropology Program, directed by Ralph Garruto, and the newly established Center for Protein Dynamics directed by Sudipta Chatterjee.

In addition, James and Barreiro plan to apply for federal grants to increase the range and scope of the study. Until then, the researchers are looking for assistance from the medical community and patients suffering from functional disorder symptoms. For more information, call 722-GUTS or email dfc2004@stny.rr.com.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08