Gluten is a protein found in some grains, which gives them the ‘stretchy’ quality for example, gluten is present in wheat, barley, rye, etc., which is why the chapati/pizza/bread dough that we make can be stretched and shaped as per requirement but in recent times, we have heard about gluten sensitivity and gluten causing autoimmune diseases where the body’s immune system attacks its own cells and tissues. The issue is that gluten tends to damage the cells of the intestine and gradually causes digestive issues—as seen in a condition called Celiac disease, which has an immune system mediated cause as well.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Pradeep Mahajan, Regenerative Medicine Researcher at StemRx Bioscience Solutions Pvt Ltd in Navi Mumbai/Mumbai, revealed, “In celiac disease, the small intestine is damaged due to gluten containing foods leading to digestion issues and malabsorption of nutrients. Subsequently, the patient experiences other symptoms related to nutritional deficiencies. In this disease, gluten triggers the immune system of the person and gradually leads to inflammation (swelling and tissue destruction) in the lining of the small intestine.”
Dr Pradeep Mahajan pointed out, “Classically, a patient may have symptoms such as diarrhoea, weight loss, bloating, fatigue, and anaemia. In most cases, a gluten-free diet is advised to control the symptoms and help in intestinal healing; however, the condition cannot be prevented.”
Stem cell therapy for treating celiac disease:
Among the advances in treatments, Dr Pradeep Mahajan claimed that stem cell therapy has been shown to help patients with celiac disease achieve better symptom relief and control of relapse. He shared, “This is because stem cells in our body have the ability to regulate the immune system, by which they set right any disturbances that lead to disease. In addition, stem cells have an anti-inflammatory property; thus, the swelling in the intestinal lining can be reduced. Another advantage is that stem cells stimulate other cells of the body to perform their functions better and provide a pool of healthy cells that helps to regenerate the damaged environment.”
He gushed, “The best part of stem cell therapy is that the cells can be obtained from the patient’s own body—generally only specialised (fully differentiated cells) get affected by disease, whereas stem cells that are the ‘master’ cells (non-specialised as yet) are not. Moreover, the treatment does not involve any surgical procedure; therefore, is minimally invasive, safe, and effective. Stem cell therapy is being explored for several diseases and being a natural/biological therapy, long-term results can be achieved. Celiac disease patients can undergo the therapy to regenerate intestinal cells, balance the immune responses, and achieve a healthier environment in the intestine that promotes digestion and absorption of nutrients, thus leading to long-term symptom control and improved overall quality of life.”