7 May 2008
An EU funded project to design a tool for diagnosis and monitoring of coeliac disease is underway (see news source). The collaborative project named CD-MEDICS ('Coeliac disease management monitoring diagnosis using biosensors and integrated chip systems') will be an interdisciplinary venture aimed at developing a lab-on-chip device which can be used at the point-of-care to screen blood samples for genes which make people more susceptible to developing coeliac disease as well as auto-antibodies which can indicate disease status.
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease, also known as gluten intolerance, for which the treatment is strict adherence to a gluten free diet. Although it is estimated to affect around 1% of the population, it is thought to be significantly under diagnosed as the disease may present at anytime in a person’s life and can be difficult to diagnose due to a wide range of associated symptoms and their similarity to symptoms of other diseases. It is a polyfactorial disease, although there is a heritable component and genetic factors have been identified which contribute to increased risk of disease. However, it is not always the case that people possessing susceptibility genes will develop the disease. Absolute diagnosis requires antibody screening and a small bowel biopsy.
This device will form an efficient way to identify at risk individuals and monitor them, as early detection and treatment can help reduce the adverse effects of the disease. It may also negate the need for invasive diagnosis and will allow monitoring of patients who already have the disease in order to ensure that they are complying with a gluten free diet.
Whilst point-of-care tests for coeliac disease are already available, they usually only measure the antibodies associated with the disease. It is hoped that the addition of a genetic test to this panel will help to identify pre-symptomatic high risk individuals, although the clinical utility of this approach is currently unclear.
The programme involving various institutions in 10 countries will be sponsored for four years under the seventh framework programme (FP7). It is hoped that the technologies developed under this programme could be applied to other health conditions such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.