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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    The Use of Monoclonal Antibodies to Detect Gluten in Foods

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 10/29/2008 - The intestinal inflammation that arises when people with celiac disease consume wheat, rye or barley occurs when HLA-DQ2-restricted CD4+ T-cells recognize peptides derived from gluten in the food. Peptides that stimulate an immune response like this are found in both gliadins and glutenins.

    A team of researchers based in the Netherlands recently discovered that particular types of antibodies called monoclonal antibodies react to the presence of gluten proteins in much the same way that the human HLA-DQ2-restricted CD4+ T-cells do, and that monoclonal antibodies offer promise for reliably detecting the presence of wheat, barley, rye, and even oat gluten in food products.

    The team was made up of Cristina Mitea, Yvonne Kooy-Winkelaar, Peter van Veelen, Arnoud de Ru, Jan W Drijfhout, Frits Koning and Liesbeth Dekking. They recently set out to assess the specificity of 5 different types of monoclonal antibodies in how they react to T-cell stimulatory peptides found in alpha - and gamma-gliadins and in low- and high-molecular-weight glutenins, and to compare it with the specificity of patient-derived T-cells.

    The team assessed the reaction levels of selected monoclonal antibodies with gluten peptides, enzymatic gluten digests, and intact gluten proteins, and compared the results to those for gluten-specific T-cells by using a combination of immunologic and biochemical techniques. They also assessed the reactivity of the monoclonal antibodies with gluten homologues in barley, rye, and oats.

    They found that the specificity of the monoclonal antibodies largely overlaps with that of gluten-specific T-cells. Moreover, monoclonal antibodies detect several distinct homologous peptides present in gluten proteins.

    The results showed that monoclonal antibodies that react to the immune-triggering peptides found in both gliadins and glutenins can be used to screen food for the presence of immune-triggering peptides. All monoclonal antibodies, except those that are LMW-specific, also detect storage proteins present in barley and rye, whereas the {gamma} -gliadin-specific monoclonal antibodies also recognize oat proteins.

    This discovery could lead to the development of a reliable test for detecting harmful gluten and related proteins and peptides in food products, or for determining if food products labeled as gluten-free were indeed free of gluten.

    American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 88, No. 4, 1057-1066, October 2008


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    Dorothy's correct in the strictest sense-they do share a protein. However, commercially available oats and oat products are often contaminated with traces of wheat, rye, or barley, and thus problematic for people with celiac disease. A successful test using this technology offers some promise of a cheap, easy to use means of testing for just such contamination. It is also true that some folks with celiac disease seem to be sensitive to oats, and the common protein would be a logical place to start.

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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 biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. 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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