Our immune system, gut microbiome and celiac disease
By Amy Ratner, Medical and Science News Analyst
Understanding how our gut microbiome and immune system function can lead to answers to two of the most pressing questions about celiac disease – how does it start and how can we stop it?
Antigen-specific immunotherapy, a treatment aimed at restoring tolerance to gluten while leaving the rest of the immune system unaffected, and the intestinal microbiome, the collection of bacteria, fungi and microbes in the digestive system, were the focus of the recent Beyond Celiac Research Symposium.
Additionally, researchers working in these areas and others are concentrating on the kind of studies most likely to result in new treatments for celiac disease.
While each topic was discussed in detail by our panel of experts, Ciaran Kelly, M.D., Maureen Leonard, M.D. and Stephen Miller, Ph.D., here are the five top takeaways from the symposium.
- Immunotherapy that uses nanoparticles to specifically target the harmful response to gluten without making celiac disease patients susceptible to infections and cancer could be the key to ending symptoms and intestinal damage.
- Though in the early stages, immunotherapy could provide celiac disease patients protection and allow them to eat a diet containing gluten.
- The gut microbiome, which is being studied in infants at high risk for celiac disease, could hold the answer to why some people with the genes associated with celiac disease develop the condition while others do not.
- If researchers can identify shifts in the microbiome at the precise moment that celiac disease is activated, they might be able to intervene and prevent celiac disease from developing.
- Researchers have a better understanding of the kind of evidence they need to finally get Food and Drug Administration approval of a drug to treat celiac disease. Studies in recent years have moved from observing the disease in patients to working on interventional treatments. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies now have an interest in finding a drug or vaccine.
You can read the full report on the research symposium here or watch the webcast here.