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BMC Gastroenterol. 2011 Nov 7;11:119. doi: 10.1186/1471-230X-11-119.

Bio-physical characteristics of gastrointestinal mucosa of celiac patients: comparison with control subjects and effect of gluten free diet-.

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Gastroenterology Unit, Spedali Civili and University, Piazzale Spedali Civili 1, 25123 Brescia, Italy.



Intestinal mucosa is leaky in celiac disease (CD), and this alteration may involve changes in hydrophobicity of the mucus surface barrier in addition to alteration of the epithelial barrier. The aims of our study were i) to compare duodenal hydrophobicity as an index of mucus barrier integrity in CD patients studied before (n = 38) and during gluten- free diet (GFD, n = 68), and in control subjects (n = 90), and ii) to check for regional differences of hydrophobicity in the gastro-intestinal tract.


Hydrophobicity was assessed by measurement of contact angle (CA) (Rame Hart 100/10 goniometer) generated by a drop of water placed on intestinal mucosal biopsies.


CA (mean ± SD) of distal duodenum was significantly lower in CD patients (56° ± 10°)) than in control subjects (69° ± 9°, p < 0.0001), and persisted abnormal in patients studied during gluten free diet (56° ± 9°; p < 0.005). CA was significantly higher (62° ± 9°) in histologically normal duodenal biopsies than in biopsies with Marsh 1-2 (58° ± 10°; p < 0.02) and Marsh 3 lesions (57° ± 10°; p < 0.02) in pooled results of all patients and controls studied. The order of hydrofobicity along the gastrointestinal tract in control subjects follows the pattern: gastric antrum > corpus > rectum > duodenum > oesophagus > ileum.


We conclude that the hydrophobicity of duodenal mucous layer is reduced in CD patients, and that the resulting decreased capacity to repel luminal contents may contribute to the increased intestinal permeability of CD. This alteration mirrors the severity of the mucosal lesions and is not completely reverted by gluten-free diet. Intestinal hydrophobicity exhibits regional differences in the human intestinal tract.

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