Celiac.com 01/01/2014 - By enabling researchers to link antibodies with certain diseases, a new method could help uncover and confirm environmental triggers for diseases such as celiac and autism.
The researchers have two goals, according to professor Patrick Daugherty, a researcher with the department of chemical engineering and the Center for BioEngineering at University of California, Santa Barbara.
The process works by mining an individual’s immunological memory—a veritable catalog of the pathogens and antigens encountered by his or her immune system
Every time we encounter a pathogen, our bodies mounts an immune response in the form of antibodies that are specific for given antigens; molecular, microbial, chemical, etc. Each time our bodies mount this response, they form “memory cells” that are activated by subsequent encounters with that specific antigen. Responses can vary, from minor reactions to serious autoimmune diseases in which the body turns against its own tissues and its immune system responds by destroying them, such as in the case of Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease.
People with celiac disease, for example, will have certain antibodies in their blood that bind to specific peptides—short chains of amino acids—present in wheat, barley, and rye. These peptides are the gluten that trigger adverse reactions in certain people. In the same way that a lock is meant to take only one key, these antibodies will only attach to specific sequences of amino acids that make up the peptides.
The researchers want to figure out which antibodies are linked to specific diseases. “People with celiac disease have two particular antibody types in their blood, which have proved to be enormously useful for diagnosis,” says Daugherty.