Who was there
I was lucky enough to participate in the Beyond Celiac 2nd Annual Research Symposium. The seminar covered all of the new research being done on celiac disease. Participants included Ciaran Kelly, MD, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Director of Gastroenterology Training at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. He is also the founder and medical director of the Celiac Center at BIDMC.
Also in attendance was Maureen M. Leonard, MD, MMSc. She is the clinical director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Mass General Hospital for Children and an instructor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
The final participant was Stephen D. Miller. He is the Judy E. Gugenheim Research Professor of Microbiology-Immunology and Director of the Interdepartmental Immunobiology Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
What they talked about
The symposium started with a call to action. 10 years ago there was absolutely no pharmaceutical research being done on celiac disease. Now, with the surge in public awareness, pharmaceutical companies are taking notice, but the problem is still money for research. The participants encouraged listeners to contact the National Institute of Health. They also encouraged those that qualified to participate in the research. One thing they stressed was that a gluten challenge may not be necessary to participate.
The first to speak about her current projects was Dr. Leonard. She is concentrating on the microbiome of the gut and how it figures into the actual emergence of celiac disease in those people with the genes for celiac disease. 40% of the population carries the gene for CD but only 2% actually develops the disease. In her research, she is trying to find the trigger for CD. She is doing this by following subjects, who have a high chance of developing CD, from the womb on. They are collecting multiple data points including the timing of the introduction of different foods, whether the child is breastfed and C-section versus natural birth.
Nanoparticle therapy, what’s that?
The second person to speak was Dr. Miller. His research revolves around the treatment of autoimmune diseases using nanoparticle therapy and antigen-specific treatment. This involves injecting very small amounts of encapsulated gluten into the spleen and liver of patients. This is done so that the body will ultimately recognize gluten as normal. Therefore,it will not have an immune response to it when ingested.
Hope for the future
Both of these research projects have the potential to seriously alter how celiacs deal with their disease. The ability to avoid the triggers of the disease would be a huge boon for those with the genes who haven’t developed CD yet. For those who already have the disease, a way to treat it so that they could possibly eat gluten again would change may lives.
What can we do?
At the end of the symposium, they stressed again how they need people to support and participate in current celiac research. They also stressed that with all of the new possible treatments on the horizon it was important to be properly diagnosed with celiac disease before starting a gluten-free diet. Without a proper diagnosis, when and if these treatments become available, insurance companies may not be willing to pay for them.
This was meant to be just a summary of everything that was discussed at the symposium.
If you would like to watch the whole video, check out the Beyond Celiac 2nd Annual Research Symposium on their website. If you have any questions about the symposium leave them in the comments below and I will try to answer them or find the answer to them.