Celiac disease (CD) is an autoimmune disease with gluten sensitivity (gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley). CD is found in a line of macaque monkeys. Dietary gluten causes damage to the small intestine in sensitive humans and macaques. Antibodies found in the small intestine in this disease target an enzyme which helps digest gluten.
There seem to be associations between CD and other diseases, such as cancer. The goal of this study was to show whether gluten-sensitive macaques have altered genes expression related to cancer in response to gluten exposure, and whether withdrawal of dietary gluten could reverse the changes in the genes.
Antibodies called AGA and TG2 are predictors of CD in humans. Withdrawal of dietary gluten from sensitive macaques results in lowering of AGA and TG2 in the blood. A change to a gluten diet results in a marked increase of AGA and TG2 in the sensitive macaques.
The genes of the macaques for detoxification of foreign chemicals were altered downward, and genes for actin-collagen altered upward during periods of gluten exposure. There were variable responses of the macaques’ genes during withdrawal of gluten. The P450 family of genes was down-regulated on gluten. These genes are associated with adenocarcinoma and lymphoma of the small intestine in humans. One of the P450 genes, which was down-regulated, controls the metabolism of cancer causing agents in the body.
The genes for actin and collagen are important for wound healing and scar tissue production. The genes were expected to be up-regulated during gluten exposure. However, responses in the macaques were variable and did not always agree with expectations.
CONCLUSION: Certainly, much more study needs to be done regarding the connection between celiac disease and cancer. The alteration of the genes to down-regulate genes for metabolism of carcinogens could explain some of the cancer seen in celiac disease. The other genes tested are not so clear.
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NOTE: Read about the variety of gluten-related disorders.