Badly needed research funding goes to Celiac Disease Research at University of Maryland. Photo--U of M.
Celiac.com 11/22/2010 - A $45 million donation to University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research will be used to create a first-of-its-kind institute to find new treatments, and perhaps a cure, for celiac disease. The donation comes at the behest of the family of a grateful patient from Indiana, Shelia Cafferty.

The institute made possible by the donation could eventually employ up to 200 doctors and researchers who will not only study celiac disease, but use it as a model to better understand other associated autoimmune disorders, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.

Dr. Alessio Fasano, Director of the Center for Celiac Research announced the donation at a press conference at West Baltimore's University of Maryland BioPark.

Speaking about the donation, Fasano told interviewers that raising "enough money is always a problem" for celiac research, and that what has been needed "for a major breakthrough is thinking out of the box, and this will allow us to do just that."

In some ways, Cafferty's nutritional health battle is similar to that fought by many people with celiac disease and gluten-intolerance.

She suffered nine years of debilitating gastrointestinal symptoms and rashes before she began to suspect wheat a few years ago. Cafferty, a nurse, put herself on a gluten-free diet, which provided relief, but not all of the answers.

She continued to visit doctors looking for answers. About a year ago, Cafferty's determined husband tracked down Dr. Fasano, who was able to diagnose her gluten sensitivity. 

Fasano's diagnosis provided tremendous relief for the Caffertys, and left them with a resolve to help save others from going through similar suffering.

"There are a lot of people like me, not getting answers," she said by phone from Indiana. She was unable to make the announcement with her husband Ken. "When you don't feel good, it impacts your activity and your daily living."

As a result of their gratitude and resolve, Sue Cafferty and her husband Ken gave $5 million to Fasano's center and arranged for the donation of another $40 million from a foundation with which they are affiliated, but which declined to be named.

Ken Cafferty said he and his wife want their money to raise the public's and doctors' awareness, as well as to fund research into treatments and a cure for celiac disease and other autoimmune disorders. "It's heartbreaking to see someone you love suffer," he said.

During the press conference, Dr. Jay Perman, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, said he expected the celiac center to collaborate with numerous researchers across, and that research done "using the Cafferty's funds will...enable research to result in real solutions for patients and their families."

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