The majority of patients with systemic sclerosis (SSc) have gastrointestinal (GI) tract involvement, but therapies using prokinetic agents are usually unsatisfactory. Ghrelin stimulates gastric motility in healthy human volunteers. In this study, we investigated whether ghrelin could improve gastric emptying in patients with gastrointestinal symptoms due to SSc. The study was performed in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover fashion on two occasions. Ten SSc patients with GI tract involvement received an infusion of either ghrelin (5.0 μg/kg) or saline, and gastric emptying rate was evaluated by 13C-acetic acid breath test. Gastric emptying was significantly accelerated by ghrelin infusion in patients with SSc (ghrelin vs. saline: 43.3 ± 11.4 min vs. 53.4 ± 5.4 min, P=0.03). No serious adverse effects were observed. Our results suggest that ghrelin might represent a new therapeutic approach for GI tract involvement in patients with SSc.
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