Celiac disease is an immune-mediated disorder triggered by the intake of gluten, which causes an inflammatory response in the small intestine. To restore the patient’s intestinal mucosa, gluten must be eliminated from their diet. Meijer explains: “Approximately 170,000 people in the Netherlands suffer from celiac disease, 30,000 of whom are children. However, only a small proportion of patients are diagnosed because the condition is accompanied by various symptoms which can be difficult to recognise”.
In GLUTENSCREEN, the celiac condition is actively sought out: children with symptoms are rapidly tested for celiac antibodies. “This approach has proved highly successful, both in detecting the disease and in gaining acceptance among parents and caregivers”.
Since the development of celiac disease is particularly related to a hereditary predisposition - namely the presence of the gene(s) called HLA-DQ2 and/or HLA-DQ8 - the goal of the new project, which is being conducted in collaboration with the HLA diagnostics laboratory of Dr. Dave Roelen, LUMC Immunology Department, is to develop a diagnostic test that can detect such genes in blood drawn from a simple finger prick. “60% of children will benefit from this form of testing as it will eliminate the need for repeated celiac testing”.
(on the photo: Drs Caroline Meijer sitting, on her left side standing is Dr Dave Roelen (Medical Immunologist), on her right standing Dr Jos Drabbels (Research technician), to his side is Paul van ‘t Sant (ICT and technician)