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New pan-European collaboration launched into the diagnosis and control of coeliac disease

12 million, equivalent to nearly 9.5 million has been invested by the European Commission into a new pan-European partnership which will design an advanced diagnostic tool for the detection and control of coeliac disease, the most under-diagnosed common chronic condition in the UK today.

The collaborative project, entitled Coeliac Disease Management Monitoring Diagnosis using Biosensors and Integrated Chip Systems (CD-MEDICS), will unite technologies to allow point of care diagnostics, combined with embedded communication technologies to directly interface with hospital information systems. It is expected that the development of the technologies involved and their combination in a single product represent a significant advance in diagnostic technology that has the potential to be applied to the detection of a range of other conditions such, insulin dependent diabetes mellitus or rheumatoid arthritis.

At least 1 in 1001 people in the UK is estimated to suffer from coeliac disease a potentially life-threatening auto-immune condition caused by intolerance to gluten. However, according to a recent study2, only 12.5% of people with the disease are actually being correctly diagnosed. Recent research showed that the average length of time taken for someone to be diagnosed with coeliac disease from the onset of their symptoms is 13 years.

Coeliac disease is not a food allergy but a life-long autoimmune disease caused by intolerance to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. For people with coeliac disease, eating gluten damages the lining of the gut, which prevents normal digestion and the absorption of food. There are serious health problems associated with coeliac disease including osteoporosis, gastro-intestinal cancer and increased risk of other autoimmune diseases. The only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet for life. The new diagnostic tool aims to help with early detection and to monitor adherence to the diet.

The project aims to develop a point of care screening device to be implemented at the primary care level. The proposed disposable microchip used to screen for coeliac disease will be used in a portable hand-held device, which will have embedded communication abilities allowing direct storage of test results on a patients electronic medical record. This will enable easy follow-up, management and monitoring of the patients response to withdrawal of gluten from the diet.

The screening device is capable of carrying out multi-analyte tests with the simultaneous detection of coeliac disease associated auto-antibodies (IgA and IgG gliadin, glutenin and tissue transglutaminase) and HLA-DQ2 and DQ8 genes. The analysis of the HLA-DQ2 and DQ8 will give information as to the genetic predisposition of an individual to developing coeliac disease, and the detection of the antibodies will allow for the early diagnosis of coeliac disease (and its recurrence if the gluten-free diet is not complied with).

The pan-European collaboration includes a number of UK-based organisations. Coeliac UK, the charity for people with coeliac disease and Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH), is leading on training of healthcare professionals about the disease and new technology. Newcastle University is responsible for the development and delivery of the development of a sensing technology platform in the screening device. Researchers at Kings College London will be leading on the development of an anti-glutenin antibody test and the CD MEDICS project is being managed by a company specialising in research project management, iXscient Ltd.


Contact: Kate Newman
Coeliac UK

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