The precise mechanisms whereby gastro-oesophageal reflux disease causes reflux oesophagitis and Barrett's oesophagus are not clear, even though these diseases have been known to be linked for many years. Recent studies indicate a role for the reflux-induced inflammatory response of oesophageal squamous epithelial cells and the immune cells in the pathogenesis of reflux oesophagitis. Although reflux oesophagitis commonly heals with oesophageal squamous cell regeneration, in some individuals the oesophagus heals through the process of metaplasia, a condition termed Barrett's oesophagus. Recent studies indicate that individual differences in the reflux-mediated response of oesophageal squamous epithelial cells in the type of immune response and/or in signalling pathways that regulate cell proliferation or cell phenotype may determine whether the oesophagus heals with the regeneration of squamous cells or through Barrett's metaplasia.
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