In 1994 I was diagnosed with celiac disease, which led me to create Celiac.com in 1995. I created this site for a single purpose: To help as many people as possible with celiac disease get diagnosed so they can begin to live happy, healthy gluten-free lives. Celiac.com was the first site on the Internet dedicated solely to celiac disease, and since then it has become an invaluable resource to people worldwide who seek information about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet.
In 1998 I created The Gluten-Free Mall, Your Special Diet Superstore! which was also another Internet first—it was the first gluten-free food site to offer a shopping cart-style interface, and the ability for people to order gluten-free products manufactured by many different companies at a single Web site.
I am also co-author of the book Cereal Killers, and founder and publisher of Journal of Gluten Sensitivity.
The Celiac Disease Autoimmunity Research (CEDAR) project is affiliated with the Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics in the School of Medicine of the University of Colorado, Health Sciences Center. It is a project supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and will collect data for a total of five years. The principal investigator is Marian J. Rewers, MD, MPH, Ph.D. Other co-investigators include: Jill Norris, Ph.D.; George Eisenbarth, MD, Ph.D.; Ronald J. Sokol, MD; and Edward Hoffenberg, MD.
The goals of this study are primarily to investigate the genetic and environmental causes of celiac disease, through the determination of the prevalence of anti-endomysial antibodies (EMA) in children considered to be at risk based on their family history (first degree relative) of either diabetes mellitus (Type I) or celiac disease or based on their HLA genotype (DR3) that is suspected to put them at an increased risk. The study is anticipating an enrollment of approximately 3,000 eligible children under the age of ten years. Most of the children reside in the Denver metro area, and a large proportion (approximately 40%) of the children involved with this research are concurrently enrolled in the Diabetes Autoimmunity Study in the Young (DAISY), which is run by the same principal investigator. The DAISY project is evaluating the presence of autoimmunity in relation to a pre-diabetic (insulin dependent diabetes mellitus) condition.
The enrolled subjects are screened initially between the ages of two and five years of age with a serum sample tested using an IgA-based anti-endomysial antibody assay. The serum samples are also screened for IgA levels in order to rule out the potential for false negative results in IgA deficient children. For the subjects who are tested at a positive titration, follow-up includes a clinic evaluation and small bowel biopsy at the Pediatric Gastroenterology Department at the Childrens Hospital of Denver, Colorado. If a diagnosis of celiac is made, the subject is referred for nutritional counseling and follow-up serum testing is done six months after the diagnosis to confirm effective treatment. Dietary factors are also collected upon enrollment of the subjects, reflecting dietary changes that are made between the ages of one and two years of age, as the introduction of gluten into the diet usually occurs in this time frame. Information on family history of other autoimmune conditions is also collected. Subjects who test negative for the presence of anti-endomysial antibodies will be re-screened two years after their initial testing, to verify their immune status with respect to the anti-endomysial antibodies.
By the end of the study period, we hope to have data that more accurately defines the prevalence of celiac disease in a United States population. The children recruited based on their HLA type are from a general population screening, and their data should be able to provide more accurate statistics on prevalence, and perhaps incidence, as some of these children have been followed since birth. We also hope to have identify associations with potential environmental exposures which may increase susceptibility to celiac disease.