JAN 14, 2020 7:56 AM PST

Can I eat this donut? A quick test for celiac disease.

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Genetic testing revealed that our ancestors have been eating wheat, rye, spelt and barley for over 8,000 years. Today, gluten, a protein found within these grains that gives baked goods their chewy consistency, has been given a bad rap. There are controversial claims that maintaining a gluten-free diet is healthier, not just for those with sensitivities or allergies.

 

 

For individuals suffering from celiac disease, however, biting into that donut can have serious medical consequences. 

Celiac disease is a hereditary autoimmune disorder in which consuming the gluten protein gliadin triggers inflammation of the small intestine. What follows are a suite of symptoms, from abdominal discomfort and fatigue to chronic diarrhea and anemia. 

These symptoms can vary widely between those affected and overlap with other digestive issues like wheat allergies and irritable bowel syndrome. To complicate the diagnostic process further, many who are sensitive to gluten do not have celiac disease.

As a result, over 90% of those with celiac disease remain undiagnosed. This is extremely dangerous, considering the long-term effects of celiac disease. Statistics show that celiacs who continue to eat gluten-containing grains have an elevated risk of developing heart disease, bowel cancer and even additional autoimmune diseases like type I diabetes and even multiple sclerosis.

The current diagnostic protocol for celiac disease is an antibody-based assay in which blood samples are screened for high levels of tissue transglutaminase IgA. A more invasive approach, involving taking a biopsy of the small intestine, is usually performed after a positive blood test result.

Recently, Klaus Hedman and his team at the University of Helsinki conducted a study to answer the question: is there a faster, simpler way to positively identify celiac disease outside of a centralized diagnostic lab?

The method they developed, called rapid FRET serodiagnostics provides results in just 30 minutes and doesn’t require trained technicians or lab instruments to generate a readout. The technology uses a mechanism called Förster Resonance Energy Transfer, or FRET, which detects energy transfer between two light-sensitive molecules in close proximity to each other. 

Patient samples gathered from a cohort of 70 adults and children suffering from celiacs disease, alongside healthy controls revealed that FRET serodiagnostics were as robust and sensitive as current assays.

 

Sources: University of Helsinki, Science Daily.

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
JAN 26, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
Why Only Some People With a Rare Mutation Get a Heart Condition
JAN 26, 2021
Why Only Some People With a Rare Mutation Get a Heart Condition
Scientists have found a way to explain why a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) can be so differen ...
JAN 27, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
No Pain, All the Diagnostic Gain
JAN 27, 2021
No Pain, All the Diagnostic Gain
A recent study published in Nature Biomedical Engineering describes new microneedle patch technology that takes the &ldq ...
FEB 03, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
New Panel of Arthritis Biomarkers Diagnoses Disease With 93.2% Accuracy
FEB 03, 2021
New Panel of Arthritis Biomarkers Diagnoses Disease With 93.2% Accuracy
Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is a painful and debilitating autoimmune disorder of the joints, particularly those of the ...
FEB 25, 2021
Coronavirus
COVID Long-Haulers Get Official Recognition
FEB 25, 2021
COVID Long-Haulers Get Official Recognition
For months, many people that have recovered from cases of COVID-19 have reported experiencing a range of lingering healt ...
MAR 18, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
"Hey Alexa, Are My Heart Rhythms Normal?"
MAR 18, 2021
"Hey Alexa, Are My Heart Rhythms Normal?"
Smart speakers—devices such as Amazon’s Echo and the Google Home—lend a helping hand around the house, ...
MAY 06, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Using Biology as Technology: A Paradigm Shift
MAY 06, 2021
Using Biology as Technology: A Paradigm Shift
Digital networks have changed the world by integrating into almost every aspect of our lives, but they have yet to direc ...
Loading Comments...