A study from the University of Chicago, co-authored by Celiac Disease Foundation Young Investigator Awardee, Valérie Abadie, PhD, has demonstrated that B-cells, a type of white blood cell, are required for the development of villous atrophy (intestinal damage) in celiac disease. This finding provides support for the exploration of B-cell–directed therapies for the treatment of celiac disease.

Researchers developed a mouse model with the same genetic markers for celiac disease as human patients in order to observe the immune response to gluten. When fed a gluten-containing diet, the mouse’s immune system begins to produce attack cells and chemical signals that lead to intestinal damage.

In order to determine whether B-cells are required for the development of intestinal damage, the study researchers analyzed the intestinal damage in three different categories of mice: mice on a gluten-free diet, mice on a gluten-containing diet, and mice on a gluten-containing diet and given an antibody treatment that eliminates B-cells. Researchers found that intestinal damage was reduced when B-cells were eliminated in the mice that were eating gluten. The decrease in intestinal damage with the reduction of B-cells was also associated with a decrease in T-cells, another kind of white blood cell. This demonstrates that B-cells play a critical role in the activation of T-cells and intestinal damage, both of which are key factors in active celiac disease.

Future studies will continue to assess the role of B-cells in the potential prevention of celiac disease. If you would like to participate in celiac disease research, add your data to our iCureCeliac® patient registry today. iCureCeliac® is a free online portal for patients, or their caregivers, to provide critical insights into life with celiac disease. Your participation will help create better diagnostic tools and treatments for cross-contact and gluten consumption, governmental policy changes, and access to new and innovative clinical trials nationwide, which may, one day, cure celiac disease.

To read the full study, click here.