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New Discoveries On Celiac Disease Could Lead To New Treatment Options

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New Discoveries On Celiac Disease Could Lead To New Treatment Options

Researchers made new discoveries regarding celiac disease that could lead to new treatments. Although it was known that celiac disease is caused by hyperactivity of the immune system, it is the first time when researchers were able to visualize the interaction between T lymphocytes and gluten, the protein that triggers the disease. Celiac disease can affect both young children and adults and the prevalence of the disease is about 1 in 300 (not certain data). It should be noted however that celiac disease may be clinically latent so the number of people affected may be higher than currently reported. Celiac disease is associated with autoimmune diseases such as dermatitis herpetiformis, thyroid disease (Basedow’s disease) etc.

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Celiac disease is a chronic intestinal disorder characterized by intolerance to certain proteins in wheat, rye, barley. There are some toxic protein fragments responsible for manifestations of celiac disease, which differs depending on the type of grain: gliadin in wheat, secalina in rye and others. Manifestations of celiac disease are diarrhea, abdominal pain, flatulence, etc. The exact celiac disease prevalence remains unknown. The positive aspect is that the symptoms subside on withdrawal of gluten from the diet. Moreover, clinical improvement after removing gluten from the diet is a diagnostic criterion.

Symptoms are caused by an abnormal immune response against gluten from the diet. Immune system cells attack the intestinal mucosa and in this way appears atrophy and intestinal malabsorption. Therefore, in addition to gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhea, abdominal pain, flatulence) also there are many symptoms caused by malabsorption: vitamin D, iron, vitamin K, protein deficiency which can lead to fatigue, anemia, fractures , bleeding etc. Celiac disease is diagnosed by symptoms, serological tests (antigliadin antibodies, etc) and intestinal biopsy.

Now a team of researchers led by Dr Hugh Reid and Professor Jamie Rossjohn of Monash University, were able to visualize how  T lymphocytes, involved in the immune response of celiac disease, interacts with gluten. Dr. Reid, a senior research fellow at Monash University, said that this finding is a step forward not only in the study of celiac disease but also in the study of autoimmune diseases. This discovery is the starting point for the blood test and a therapeutic vaccine, Nexvax2 ®. However it should be mentioned that this vaccine will be available only if the patient with celiac disease carries the gene HLA-DQ2. There is a genetic susceptibility in the population that favors the development of celiac disease. People who carry HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8 are more prone to celiac disease. But now researchers believe the vaccine can restore immune tolerance to gluten. This would mean that patients can eat gluten again without having intestinal symptoms.