David van Heel, a gastrointestinal genetics professor at Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry, headed a group of researchers from around the world who studied the genetic maps of more than 9,400 celiacs. They have found what they term “substantial” evidence that the genes which are connected with celiac disease are also linked to other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
As a result, scientists are able to understand how the genetic risk factors for the disease operate—by changing the number of immune system genes that cells make. Furthermore, it is now understood that there are “hundreds” of genetic risk factors, which means that scientists should be able to “have a good guess at nearly half of the genetic risks at present,” van Heel wrote in the Nature Genetics journal in his published study.
We can look forward to more research, more awareness, and perhaps even a pill! Meanwhile, it’s best to keep doing our parts to raise awareness and funds for research.
From our home to yours, Tina Turbin
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