Understanding Celiac Disease – Has Science Found the Cause?

In an article published yesterday by Jefferson Adams on Celiac.com, it seems that science has gained a step forward in determining what specifically is triggering the body to respond to gluten so negatively.

We’ve had limited understanding of the disease and it’s biological process since it’s gluten finding link back in 1952.

We’ve known for a little while now that it is an autoimmune response – the body attacks itself in the presence of gluten.  We know that there are two genes linked to the disease: HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8.  We know that the majority of folks carry HLA-DQ2 and the minority get HLA-DQ8.  We know these are only predispositions – you can have the gene but not the disease.

Along with the other information, German scientists have now discovered that celiac patients have antibodies for a very specific enzyme: transglutaminase 2. When looking more in depth, they found that as gluten was presented to T cells (these are the immune cells that attack everything), changes began to happen in the body due to this transglutaminase 2 enzyme.

It was through this that the team was able to see that the HLAs (being proteins, ultimately), were being used as binders to show the T-cells how to behave or what to attack.  The German team deduced that because the HLAs in celiac are ‘defective’, the HLAs show the T-cells fragments of gluten and flag them as invaders; the same as bacteria or viruses.

Though maybe seeming as a small discovery, much of science already has a fair understanding on T-cell function and is continuing to grow in that research.  If we gain a glimpse on the behavior of T-cells and HLA in the process, then we can be one step closer to limited and even inhibiting the immune response caused by gluten in the body.

I think that the more we understand, the more we know, the better we can treat and diagnose as well.

What are your thoughts on this research?

Additional sources: Med.uio.no

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