Celiac Disease Vaccine Studies Start This Month in Australia

They found more than half of Australians had genetic risk factors for developing coeliac disease . The research is published online today in the journal BMC Medicine. Dr Jason Tye-Din from the Immunology division at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and Dr Bob Anderson, chief scientific officer at US biotechnology company ImmusanT, worked with Barwon Health, Deakin University, Healthscope Pathology and the University of Queensland Diamantina Institute to develop and trial the new diagnostic approach. Dr Tye-Din said the new approach of combining the genetic test with a panel of antibody tests would increase the accuracy of testing, decrease overall medical costs by reducing invasive diagnostic tests, and avoid medically unnecessary use of a gluten-free diet. “Currently, bowel biopsies are recommended for anybody with positive antibody tests,” he said. “In this study the inclusion of a simple genetic test helped identify a substantial number of people whose antibody tests were falsely positive and who did not actually require a bowel biopsy to test for the possibility of coeliac disease.” Coeliac disease is caused by an inappropriate immune response to dietary gluten. Gluten can be found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. When gluten is consumed, it can cause a wide range of complaints from chronic tiredness, iron deficiency, osteoporosis, itchy rash, and headaches to various digestive symptoms. Coeliac disease damages the lining of the small intestine and can lead to significant medical complications such as autoimmune disease, infertility, liver failure and cancer. Coeliac disease usually develops in childhood and is life-long, but early diagnosis and treatment can reduce the risk of adverse health complications. Dr Tye-Din said the newly developed testing strategy showed coeliac disease potentially affected at least one in 60 Australian women and one in 80 men. Previous estimates had the number of Australians with coeliac disease as no more than one in 100. Although this study is the first to reveal that more than half of Australians have genetic risk factors for developing coeliac disease, it is not yet known why the disease develops in only some people. Dr Tye-Din, who is also a gastroenterologist at The Royal Melbourne Hospital, said the findings were surprising and shed new light on the medical burden of coeliac disease in Australia. “It is concerning that a significant number of people in the community with coeliac disease have not been diagnosed,” he said.

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The scientist heading the research is Dr. Bob Anderson, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne. According to a press release from the Institute, If the vaccine developmentof Dr Anderson and his scientific team prove successful, a strict gluten free diet for celiacs could become a thing of the past. The point of the vaccine would be to induce autoimmune tolerance to gluten, so the celiac patient’s body would not react in the usual manner and no damage would be inflicted on the small intestine. Before the vaccine’s effectiveness can be confirmed, however, the researchers must first conduct whats known as a Phase I trial to verify how the vaccine acts and affects the body, the side effects associated with increasing doses, and early evidence of effectiveness. The study starting this month in Australia is a Phase I trial. Using forty volunteers with celiac disease, the researchers will attempt to determine the appropriate vaccine dose and to identify any side effects. Dr. Anderson has been studying the role of gluten in celiac disease for many years. In the press release, he said, As both a celiac disease researcher and treating gastroenterologist, I am in an interesting position. I have overseen my basic scientific discovery about the troublesome elements in gluten being translated into an experimental vaccine that may eventually help my patients.The vaccine itself is intended to gradually desensitize the celiac sufferer, so that gluten is tolerated. Consequently, the villi in the small intestine should revive and absorb nutrients in the normal way.

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Scientists identify origins of Celiac Disease

It is estimated to affect up to one in 133 people in the United States. The disease is found throughout the world. Most people digest gluten easily. However, people with celiac disease have a negative response to gluten. Consequently, they have to stringently avoid foods and beverages, such as most breads, cereals, pasta, and beer, which contain gluten. Gluten consists of two proteins’gliadin an glutenin’that is found in grass-related grains, such as wheat, rye, and barley. When eaten by people sensitive to gluten, it damages the walls of their small intestine, and causes diarrhea or constipation, bloating, gas, loose stool, abdominal pain and cramping, fatigue, and other such problems. The work of these Australian/U.K. researchers may provide a way to develop a vaccine that will help celiac disease patients tolerate foods containing gluten. The paper that summarizes the efforts of these Australian and United Kingdom researchers is entitled ‘ Comprehensive, Quantitative Mapping of T Cell Epitopes in Gluten in Celiac Disease .’ It appears in the July 21, 2010 issue of Science Translational Medicine (Sci Transl Med 21 July 2010: Vol. 2, Issue 41, p. 41ra51 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3001012.).

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