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Scientists Observe Gluten and Immune Reaction for HLA-DQ8 Celiac Disease 11/12/2012 - For the first time, researchers looking for a link between gluten and the immune system have been able to visualize the connection, according to new research in the scientific journal, Immunity.

Photo: cc--eddie 07The discovery may help to pave the way for a treatment for celiac disease that can restore immune tolerance to gluten and allow patients to return to a normal diet including gluten. Such a treatment would certainly be welcome news to many people who suffer from celiac disease.

The breakthrough is the result of a collective effort by researchers in Australia, the Netherlands and at Cambridge, Massachusetts-based ImmusanT Inc. The project was led by Professor Jamie Rossjohn and Dr. Hugh Reid at Monash University, Dr. Bob Anderson of ImmusanT and Professor Frits Koning at the University of Leiden.

By using x-ray crystallography, the researchers were able visualize the way in which T cells interact with the gluten protein that cause celiac disease in patients with the DQ8 susceptibility gene.

This discovery will help researchers better understand how celiac disease is triggered, and how pathology develops at the cellular level. About half the population carries the immune response genes HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8, making them genetically susceptible to celiac disease.

At least one in 20 people who have the HLA-DQ2 gene, and about one in 150 who carry HLA-DQ8 will develop celiac disease, but people with other versions of the HLA-DQ genes seem to be protected from it.

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This fact made researchers wonder how the immune system can sense gluten. That wondering triggered research efforts that led to an answer. An important one.

“This is the first time that the intricacies of the interaction between gluten and two proteins that initiate immune responses have been visualized at a sub-molecular level. It is an important breakthrough for celiac disease and autoimmune disease,” stated Professor Jamie Rossjohn, National Health and Medical Research Fellow, Monash University.

The researchers used the Australian three GeV Synchrotron to determine how T-cells of the immune system interact with gluten. Unlike an accelerator such as the LHC, the Australian Synchroton is a light source rather than a collider, making it ideal for the new study. The end goal of the project is to produce a treatment which allows celiac sufferers to resume a normal diet. 

Understanding the gluten peptides responsible for celiac disease offers what Dr. Bob Anderson, ImmusanT's Chief Scientific Officer, calls "unique opportunity to interrogate the molecular events leading to a[n]...immune response.”

To address this opportunity, ImmusanT is currently developing a blood test and a therapeutic vaccine, Nexvax2, for celiac disease patients who carry HLA-DQ2. Nexvax2 uses three gluten peptides commonly recognized by gluten-reactive T cells. Nexvax2 is intended to restore immune tolerance to gluten and allow patients to return to a normal diet including gluten.
Future studies will investigate whether T cell activation by gluten in patients with HLA-DQ2 follows similar principles.

If it were safe and effective, would you consider a treatment that restored your immune tolerance to gluten and allowed you to eat a normal diet including gluten? Comment below to let us know your thoughts.

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11 Responses:

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said this on
12 Nov 2012 2:09:50 AM PST
At this point, gluten is the least of my food issues. The extensive damage caused by gluten and many, many, many years of mis and non diagnosis are more of a concern for me.
I have learned how to eat without gluten in my diet, and I am eating MUCH healthier without gluten.

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said this on
12 Nov 2012 5:39:19 AM PST
I would definitely.
Hope it won't take long as usual.


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said this on
12 Nov 2012 5:45:01 AM PST
I think I would never go back to eating gluten, but it would be great not to be worried about cross contamination all the time.

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said this on
12 Nov 2012 8:05:00 AM PST
If proven both safe and effective, I would consider the treatment, but I would not purposely include gluten again in my diet. The treatment would give a measure of insulation against the effects of all to often exposure.

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said this on
12 Nov 2012 9:35:00 AM PST
This is exciting news! I don't see why any celiac would choose not to be cured if the treatment was truly safe and effective. I hope this research pans out and that a treatment is developed for people who carry not just one, but both of the genes for celiac disease.

Thank you again, Jefferson Adams, for your continued efforts to report the latest research here at!

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said this on
12 Nov 2012 1:07:06 PM PST
I would not return to gluten because I eat a much healthier diet as a result of my gluten awareness. However, I would like to have the flexibility to go anywhere without worrying about whether I will be able to eat safely. I would gladly seek treatment if it was safe and at least moderately effective.

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said this on
03 Dec 2012 2:35:24 PM PST
Absolutely I would try it - if it didn't work for me, I would still do it for the sake of people in the future who are diagnosed. I'm new to this (1 week since diagnosis), and would go back in a heartbeat if I could do so safely.

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said this on
04 Dec 2012 5:55:20 PM PST
Eating a gluten free diet is a lot easier at home than out, so I would want to take part in a drug that would cause me to eat whatever I want out and not worry about how they prepare...The days of me eating out are numbered.

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said this on
04 Feb 2013 3:51:09 AM PST
I would take the potion and go straight down the the bakery and smash down some pies, cakes and sausage rolls. Then go straight to McDonald's for a Big Mac meal. Goodbye celiacs, hello heart disease.

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said this on
26 Feb 2013 4:27:49 AM PST
I would try the vaccine and any other method to rid me of celiac disease. I would run to any bakery and then would eat fried chicken, fried oysters and catfish!

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said this on
16 Mar 2014 1:47:38 PM PST
Being diagnosed two years ago at age 69 I would never re-introduce gluten to my body. I have far too many permanent conditions induced by this intolerance to the protein. I will welcome an antidote pharmaceutical which would reduce my extreme sensitivity to minute amounts of gluten. I have even discovered minute gluten based compounds in prescription medications - especially generic formulates.

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