Beyond Celiac today announced the granting of a two-year established investigator grant award to the University of Sheffield, United Kingdom. The $209,000 investment from Beyond Celiac will make it possible for scientists to expand investigation of the neurological and neuropsychological manifestations of celiac disease and gluten-related disorders. This research will be a continuation of earlier work from Nigel Hoggard, MD, and Iain Croall, PhD, at Sheffield.
“Interest in the gut-brain connection has increased among both the scientific community and public. Neuropsychological impairment in people with celiac disease can be as or more debilitating than their gastrointestinal symptoms, and it has been overlooked for too long,” said Salvatore Alesci, MD, Beyond Celiac chief scientist and strategy officer. “These talented researchers completed a study last year that provided the first compelling and objective scientific evidence that significant changes occur in the brain of celiac disease patients. Beyond Celiac looks forward to furthering their important work in this area of great unmet need.”
Hoggard and Croall, who co-authored the previous study, showed evidence that people with celiac disease have a greater risk of damage to brain white matter, as well as worsened cognitive and mental health. This new research will examine the relationship between findings from brain scans of patients with gluten-related disorders and a variety of different parameters. The study will focus on how effectively the gluten-free diet treats these neurological problems and will further investigate long-term effects on cognitive function, severity of depression and anxiety symptoms and overall quality of life. Up to 500 patients who have had brain scans are expected to participate, the largest studied so far. The new results will help to corroborate evidence and further clinical understanding of the neuropathology of celiac disease and gluten-related disorders.
“We are pleased and heartened that Beyond Celiac has recognized the importance of our brain imaging research and has made the commitment to enable us to go deeper and further,” noted Hoggard. “We know that the impact of gluten on people with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders goes far beyond the gut, and this research will give us more information about its impact on the brain,” he added.
“Advancing research like this work at Sheffield is an important step to increase awareness among physicians of the need to consistently incorporate mental health evaluation in the diagnosis and follow-up of celiac disease,” added Alesci.
Celiac disease is a serious genetic autoimmune disorder that affects an estimated 1 in 133 Americans, more than half of whom are still undiagnosed. The disease causes damage to the small intestine, resulting in debilitating symptoms, and if left untreated, can lead to serious long-term health problems including infertility and some types of cancer.