Specialist centre puts gluten-related disease in the spotlight

Field of wheat

We're collaborating to better understand the unpredictable signs and symptoms of a common gut disorder.

People suffering from coeliac disease and other gluten-related disorders could benefit from better diagnosis and care with the establishment of the Sheffield Institute of Gluten-Related Disorders (SIGReD).

Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease caused when the body’s immune system reacts to gluten found in wheat, rye and barley. If left untreated, it can cause serious health problems. The only known treatment is by a lifelong strict adherence to a gluten-free diet.

SIGReD brings together some of the world's most distinguished researchers and academics to collaborate on work into how the diagnosis of coeliac disease and other gluten related disorders could be improved.

One area researchers will focus on is how increased recognition of symptoms not always connected to the bowel could aid diagnosis of the disease.

Currently one in 100 people are affected by coeliac disease – but for every one patient diagnosed because of bowel symptoms, eight remain undiagnosed.

The institute has been set up by Professor Marios Hadjivassiliou and Professor Dave Sanders from our University and the departments of neurology and gastroenterology at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Professor Marios Hadjivassiliou said: "The institute brings together global expertise so that we can share learning, encourage collaboration and innovation and become a research powerhouse with the aim of improving the diagnosis and care for thousands of people who may be living with coeliac disease undiagnosed."

Professor Dave Sanders added: "Patients will also be able to benefit from newer tests which may improve the diagnosis of those with symptoms that are not associated with the bowel as well as patients who have so-called 'non-coeliac gluten sensitivity', when they have an almost normal small bowel biopsy but still seem to improve with the diet."

Professors Marios Hadjivassiliou and Dave Sanders have both received international recognition for their work. Over the past ten years, members of the SIGReD have published more than 100 scholarly articles on the subject, and won prestigious clinical and research awards from Coeliac UK, Ataxia UK, the Nutrition Society and the European Gastroenterology Association.

The latest research from institute members, published in Neurology, the Journal of the American Academy of Neurology, could aid diagnosis of a group of neurological diseases triggered by sensitivity to gluten.