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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Mast Cells Tied to Onset and Progression of Celiac Disease

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

      Mast cells are a major driver in the onset and progression of celiac disease.


    Caption: Image: CC--zooey

    Celiac.com 05/18/2017 - Researchers understand pretty well that celiac disease is driven in part by an accumulation of immune cells in the duodenal mucosa as a consequence of both adaptive and innate immune responses to undigested gliadin peptides.

    Mast cells are innate immune cells that produce a majority of co-stimulatory signals and inflammatory mediators in the intestinal mucosa. A team of researchers recently set out to evaluate the role of mast cells in the development of celiac disease.

    The research team included Barbara Frossi, PhD, Claudio Tripodo, MD, Carla Guarnotta, PhD, Antonio Carroccio, MD, Marco De Carli, MD, Stefano De Carli, MD, Marco Marino, MD, Antonino Calabrò, MD, and Carlo E. Pucillo, MD.

    They are variously affiliated with the Department of Gastroenterology and Digestive Endoscopy at the University Hospital of Udine in Udine, Italy; the Department of Medical and Biological Sciences, University of Udine, Udine, Italy; the Second Unit of Internal Medicine, University of Udine, Udine, Italy; the Department of Experimental and Clinical Biomedical Sciences “Mario Serio,” University Hospital of Florence, Florence, Italy; the Tuscany Referral Center for Adult Coeliac Disease, AOU Careggi, Florence, Italy; the Department of Health Science, University Hospital of Palermo in Palermo, Italy; and the Department of Internal Medicine and Specialist at the University Hospital of Palermo in Palermo, Italy.

    For their study, the research team scored intestinal biopsy results from celiac patients according to Marsh classification, and characterized those results for leukocyte infiltration and MC distribution. They also characterized mast cell reactivity to gliadin and its peptides via in vitro assays.

    The team found that infiltrating mast cells reflected the severity of mucosal damage, and their numbers were increased in patients with higher Marsh scores. They noted that mast cells responded directly to non-immunodominant gliadin fragments by releasing pro-inflammatory mediators.

    Their immunohistochemical analysis of infiltrating mast cells, along with the effects of gliadin peptides on intestinal mast cells, indicates that patients in with advanced celiac disease face an increase in pro-inflammatory mast cell function. This result was also tied to increased neutrophil accumulation, the prevalence of M1 macrophages, and the severity of tissue damage.

    This study clearly describes the progressive stages of celiac disease, and shows that mast cells are a prominent feature of the inflammatory process.

    These results show that mast cells are associated with the onset and progression of celiac disease, and that the view of celiac disease should be revised to account for the contribution of mast cells in the onset and progression of the disease; and in the development any new celiac treatments.

     Source:


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    Very interesting! I have long suspected the innate immune system as the key player in celiac (and gluten intolerance) response, at least in the early stages of the disease. The gut is lined with cells that mature over a 5-7 day period. If the digestive reaction is about 5 days long, and you are constantly exposed to the offending antigen, then the gut barrier would eventually become compromised. That is when the adaptive immune system would start playing a larger part, and other autoimmune disorders would follow. We wonder if following a gluten-free diet since birth would have spared my husband and others from the autoimmune disorders that often accompany celiac - for that very reason.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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