Ever since my diagnosis, I have been amazed at the science and cause behind Celiac disease. I am currently enrolled in an independent class at my high school called “Advanced Topics in Biology.” At the beginning of the semester I had a choice from a wide range of topics – basically anything relating to biology. My fascination with Celiac disease led me to choose to design an experiment investigating the genetic factors involved in the inheritance and activation of the disorder.
Although I have not yet started the experiment, I have conducted a considerable amount of research and already learned a great deal of information. I think some of this information, although fairly straightforward, is not known by many Celiac patients. Scientists have not yet discovered the definite cause of Celiac Disease, but they have determined several genetic factors that increase the risk of acquiring the disease. These genetic “markers” or alleles are different forms of a series of genes present on chromosome six, and are involved in the reaction of the immune system to different antigens. The genes are called Human Leukocyte Antigens (HLAs) and one of two types (HLA-DQ2 and HLA- DQ8) is carried by virtually every person with Celiac disease. Conversely, however, the fact that one has the allele(s) does not mean they will have the disorder. These forms of the gene are present in about 30% of the white population, many of whom don’t have any form of gluten intolerance. While these alleles are considerable factors in the genetics of the disease, there are many other genes that also have a major effect.
In my experiment, I will take DNA samples from several groups of people and test for some of the most popular HLA alleles, in an attempt to find some sort of correlation between the alleles and the presence of Celiac Disease.