Symptoms include chronic diarrhoea, failure to thrive (in children), and fatigue, but these may be absent, and symptoms in other organ systems have been described.
A growing portion of diagnoses are being made in asymptomatic persons as a result of increased screening; the condition is thought to affect between 1 in 1,750 and 1 in 105 people in the United States.
Celiac disease is caused by a reaction to gliadin, a prolamin (gluten protein) found in wheat, and similar proteins found in the crops of the tribe Triticeae (which includes other common grains such as barley and rye).
Gluten is not a single protein, but rather comprises two families of proteins: glutenins and gliadins. It’s the gliadin proteins that cause the most trouble for Celiac disease sufferers.
Currently the only treatment for Celiac disease is to avoid eating gluten entirely. This is challenging, given the amount of wheat, rye and barley products used as additives in prepared food. Also, gluten and yeast work together to make bread rise, and sometimes you just want a nice, chewy piece of bread.
Researchers thought that if they could remove just the gliadins from the gluten, Celiac Disease sufferers would be able to safely eat gluten-containing products.
Notice the difference between this and other biotech crops that we’ve seen in the news: instead of adding herbicide-tolerance or insect resistance to the plant, these researchers are removing proteins that cause disease in some people. Using a technique called “RNA interference”*, Gil-Humanes and colleagues showed that gliadin proteins could be reduced in wheat.
You may be wondering: does reducing the gluten in wheat affect the texture of the bread? Apparently not, according to one bread-making quality test.