Gluten is a protein found in some grains, which gives them the “stretchy” quality. For example, gluten is present in wheat, barley, rye, etc., that’s why the chapati/pizza/bread dough we make can be stretched and shaped as needed, but lately, we have heard of gluten sensitivity and gluten causing autoimmune diseases where the body’s immune system attacks its own cells and tissues. The problem is that gluten tends to damage cells in the gut and gradually cause digestive problems, as seen in a condition called celiac disease, which also has an immune system-mediated cause.
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 foods containing gluten causing digestion problems and nutrient malabsorption. Subsequently, the patient experiences other symptoms related to nutritional deficiencies. In this disease, gluten triggers the person’s immune system and gradually leads to inflammation (swelling and tissue destruction) of the lining of the small intestine.
Dr. Pradeep Mahajan pointed out: “Classically, a patient may present with symptoms such as diarrhoea, weight loss, bloating, fatigue and anemia. In most cases, a gluten-free diet is advised to control symptoms and help gut healing; however, the condition cannot be avoided.
Stem cell therapy for the treatment of celiac disease:
Among the advancements in treatments, Dr. Pradeep Mahajan claimed that stem cell therapy has been shown to help patients with celiac disease better relieve symptoms and control relapses. He shared, “This is because stem cells in our body have the ability to regulate the immune system, through which they correct all disturbances that lead to disease. In addition, stem cells have an anti-inflammatory property; thus, the swelling of the intestinal mucosa can be reduced. Another benefit is that stem cells stimulate other cells in the body to perform their functions better and provide a pool of healthy cells that helps regenerate the damaged environment.
He said: “The best part about stem cell therapy is that the cells can be obtained from the patient’s own body – usually only specialized cells (fully differentiated cells) are affected by the disease, whereas the stem cells which are the “master” cells (not yet specialized) are not. Additionally, the treatment does not involve any surgery; 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. Patients with celiac disease can undergo therapy to regenerate intestinal cells, balance immune responses, and achieve a healthier environment in the gut that promotes digestion and nutrient absorption, thus leading to symptom control at long term and a better overall quality of life.