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Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2012 Feb;237(2):119-25. doi: 10.1258/ebm.2011.011294. Epub 2012 Jan 26.

In vitro models for gluten toxicity: relevance for celiac disease pathogenesis and development of novel treatment options.

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Pediatric Research Center, University of Tampere and Tampere University Hospital, Tampere, Finland.


In genetically predisposed individuals, dietary gluten in wheat, rye and barley triggers celiac disease, a systemic autoimmune disorder hallmarked by an extensive small-bowel mucosal immune response. The current conception of celiac disease pathogenesis is that it involves components of both innate and adaptive immunity whose activation typically leads to small-bowel villous atrophy with crypt hyperplasia. Currently, the only effective treatment for celiac disease is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet excluding all wheat-, rye- and barley-containing food products. During the diet, the clinical symptoms improve and the small-bowel mucosal damage recovers, while re-introduction of gluten into the diet leads to re-appearance of the symptoms and deterioration of the small-bowel mucosal architecture. In view of the restricted nature of the diet, alternative treatment is warranted. Improved understanding of the molecular basis of celiac disease has enabled researchers to suggest other therapeutic approaches. Although there is no animal model reproducing all features of celiac disease, the use of in vitro approaches including a variety of cell lines and the celiac patient small-bowel mucosal biopsy organ culture has generated knowledge about pathogenesis of celiac disease. In these culture systems, gluten induces different effects that can be quantified, thus also enabling studies concerning the efficacy of candidate therapeutic compounds for celiac disease. This review describes the intestinal epithelial cell models, celiac patient T-cell lines and clones, as well as the small-bowel mucosal organ culture methods widely used in studies of celiac disease, and summarizes the major findings obtained with these systems.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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