Norwegian Scientists Make Progress on Understanding of Celiac Disease

On June 30, 2015, it was announced that Professor Ludvig M. Sollid and his colleagues at the University of Oslo have reportedly established the cause of celiac disease. To do so required really going into depth, right down to molecular level. The scientists first determined that two specific human leukocyte antigens (HLAs) HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8 predispose individuals to celiac disease Professor Sollid explains: "Human leucocyte antigens (HLAs) are found as genetically determined variants in all humans. The task of HLAs is to bind to fragments of proteins that are broken down in the cells, transport the fragments to the cell surface and present them to the T-lymphocytes. The T-lymphocytes, or T-cells, are a particular type of white blood corpuscle that is important to the immune system. The T-cells monitor cells for viral or bacterial infections. They detect infections by finding remnants of viruses or bacteria as fragments bound to HLAs. If any are detected, the immune system will ensure that the infected cell is killed. The T-cells of people with celiac disease think gluten is a virus or bacterium, and therefore cause an immune reaction that we experience as an infection, with associated discomfort," says Professor Sollid. At least 1 % of the inhabitants of Europe have celiac disease. This is a partly hereditary disease that may place considerable strain on patients and their families. If you develop the disease, you have to change your diet and live with the disease for the rest of your life. The immune system of patients with celiac disease reacts to gluten proteins from cereal grains, causing inflammation of the mucous membrane of the small intestine. This reaction to gluten causes the immune system of celiac patients to attack their own bodies.
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