Celiac.com 06/30/2008 - In the crypts of the small bowel, there is a group of small, granular epithelial cells, called Paneth cells, which play an important part in innate immune system. There has been some controversy about what role Paneth cells might play in complicating celiac disease, so team of Italian researchers set out to examine the distribution, proliferation, and function of paneth cells in adults with uncomplicated and complicated celiac disease.

The research team was made up of P. Biancheri , Cdel V. Blanco, L. Cantoro, M. De Vincenzi, A. Di Sabatino, W. Dhaliwal, E. Miceli, R. Salerno, A. Vanoli,  T.T. Macdonald, and G.R. Corazza. The team is affiliated with the Celiac Specialty Center at the First Department of Medicine at University of Pavia in Pavia, Italy.

Seeking to better understand the function and the numbers of Paneth cell adults with celiac disease (celiac disease), the team measured Paneth cells and human alpha-defensin (HD)-5 and HD-6 in 28 adults with uncomplicated celiac disease, 8 patients with complicated celiac disease (3 with ulcerative jejunoileitis, 2 with refractory sprue, and 3 with enteropathy-associated T-cell lymphoma), and 14 control subjects.

Subjects with uncomplicated untreated and treated celiac disease showed similar numbers of Paneth cells, with similar cell proliferation, compared to the control group, while subjects with complicated celiac disease showed much fewer Paneth.

Subjects with uncomplicated untreated celiac disease, and those with treated celiac disease showed similar levels of mucosal HD-5 and HD-6 compared to the control group, while cells taken from the biopsies of subjects with treated celiac disease and challenged with gliadin proteins showed no change in mucosal HD-5 and HD-6 transcripts.

Furthermore, those subjects with uncomplicated celiac disease showed no reduction in mucosal Paneth cell numbers and alpha-defensins.

Clearly, a small study such as this will not tell us exactly how a reduction in the numbers of Paneth cells might complicate celiac disease, but since the role of Paneth cells is so vital to healthy innate immune function, it does point to the need for further examination.

Am J Clin Pathol. 2008 Jul;130(1):34-42.

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