A study from the University of Maryland Celiac Research Center places gluten sensitivity at the center of the spectrum of gluten-related disorders

Baltimore, MD – March 10, 2011. Scientists at the University of Maryland Celiac Disease Research Center have proven that gluten sensitivity is different from celiac disease (CD) at the molecular level as well as in the system’s response. immune. The study, published online in BMC Medicine, provides the first scientific evidence of a different mechanism leading to gluten sensitivity. It also demonstrates that gluten sensitivity and CD both belong to the same spectrum of disorders caused by gluten.

“We found differences in the levels of intestinal permeability and in the expression of genes regulating the immune response in the intestinal mucosa,” says Dr. Fasano, professor of pediatrics, medicine and physiology at the School of Medicine of the University of Maryland and also director of the Center for Research on Celiac Disease. The study documents the genes and developmental pattern – a sequence of reactions in the small intestine – possibly associated with gluten sensitivity. “By identifying and isolating biological markers in the immune response of people with gluten sensitivity, we could uncover tools that allow us to diagnose this condition,”

In people with CD, gluten triggers an autoimmune reaction in the small intestine. Complex proteins found in wheat, rye and barley trigger an immune system attack on the gut in people with CD. Undiagnosed and untreated, CD can lead to the development of other autoimmune disorders such as osteoporosis, infertility, certain neurological disorders and in rare cases, cancer.

Gluten sensitivity, unlike CD, is not associated with these serious consequences. Common symptoms of gluten sensitivity are abdominal pain (like that seen in irritable bowel syndrome), fatigue, headaches, difficulty concentrating, or tingling in the extremities. There is also evidence that a subgroup of schizophrenic and autistic patients may be affected by gluten sensitivity.

The Celiac Disease Research Center estimates that there are approximately 6% of the US population or 18 million Americans with gluten sensitivity. This group has many of the same symptoms affecting celiacs, but gluten-sensitive individuals usually have negative serological tests for CD and do not show the typical intestinal damage of CD.

“Imagine gluten ingestion in a spectrum,” says Dr. Fasano. “At one end of the spectrum you have people with CD who cannot tolerate a single particle of gluten in their diet. At the other end, you have lucky people who can consume pizza, beer, pasta, and cookies without their health being affected. At the center of the spectrum is this dark area of ​​reactions to gluten including gluten sensitivity. This is where we look for answers regarding how best to diagnose and treat this group recently identified as gluten-sensitive individuals,” says Dr. Fasano.

“The Center for Celiac Disease is at the forefront of the effort to better understand the spectrum of disorders caused by gluten,” says E. Albert Reece, MD, Ph.D., MBA, Vice President for Medical Affairs from the University of Maryland. “I have no doubt that further studies will lead to new tools for diagnosing and treating those with gluten sensitivity.”

The present study was conducted in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, the Experimental Department of Medicine of the University of Naples in Italy and the Institute of Food Sciences of Avellino in Italy. This study, published in BMC Medecine, bears the title: “ Divergence of Gut Permeability and Mucosal Immune Gene Expression in Two Gluten-Associated Conditions: Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity. »

For more than a decade, the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Celiac Research Center has been on the front lines of education, research, diagnosis and treatment of CD. A large study in 2003, conducted by the Celiac Disease Research Center, estimated that one in 133 people in the United States has CD. In 2000, the Celiac Disease Research Center developed a blood test that is used to identify the disease. Founded in 1995, the Celiac Disease Research Center is an international leader in promoting the advancement of knowledge about CD in order to provide better care, provide a better quality of life and more support to the community. celiacs around the world.