October 12, 2012
Gluten And T-Cell Observations Offer Insight Into Celiac Disease
Connie K. Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
Observations of the relationship between gluten and T-cells in the immune system have allowed researchers from Monash University to get a better understanding on how celiac disease comes into being.
According to the scientists, the disorder impacts a significant part of the population--specifically 1 in 133 people. Due to immune response genes HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8, almost half of the population is susceptible to contracting celiac disease. In particular, one in 20 people expresses HLA-DQ2 while one in 150 expresses HLA-DQ8.
Celiac disease is a chronic inflammatory disorder that impacts the small intestine in the digestive system. Those who suffer from celiac disease have difficulty consuming gluten, an ingredient found in wheat, rye and barley. Gluten causes the immune system to trigger T-cells to defend against proteins, thus hurting the small intestine in the process.
Areas of the intestine, called villi, are filled with lining. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, people who have the disease, also have damage to the villi, which prevents the body from absorbing necessary nutrients. With no effective treatment currently, patients who have celiac disease are prohibited from eating anything with gluten.
The findings of the study were recently published in Immunity.
"This is the first time that the intricacies of the interaction between gluten and two proteins that initiate immune responses have been visualized at a sub-molecular level," explained Dr. Hugh Reid, a researcher of Monash University, in a prepared statement.
In the study, the scientists utilized the Australian Synchrotron, a radiation facility, to identify the number of T-cells that interacted with gluten. Gluten, a protein, is thought to lead to celiac disease. The findings of the study are important in understanding celiac disease and other autoimmune diseases.
In particular, biotech company ImmusanT Inc. is developing a blood test and a therapeutic vaccine. They believe these two things will be able to treat patients with celiac disease who are found to have the gene HLA-DQ2. These treatments focus on restoring immune tolerance to gluten and helping patients to reincorporate gluten into their daily diet.
Future studies on celiac disease will also look at T-cell activation by gluten in patients who have HLA-DQ2.
"Because we now know the gluten peptides responsible for celiac disease, we can interrogate the molecular events leading to a self-destructive immune response," Dr. Bob Anderson, a researcher from U.S.-based ImmusanT Inc., said in the statement.
For those who are concerned about the disease, there are certain risk factors that may increase a person´s chance of having celiac disease. In particular, those who have a family history of the disease are at greater risk. As well, the disorder is commonly found in Caucasians or people of European heritage as well as in more females than males.
Symptoms of celiac disease included abdominal pain, bloating, indigestion, constipation, decreased appetite, diarrhea that´s constant off-and-on, lactose intolerance, nausea and vomiting, as well as unexplained weight loss. Children who have celiac disease also exhibit signs such as delayed puberty, irritable behavior, slowed growth, poor weight gain and issues with tooth enamel.