Diagnosing celiac disease will be way less painful and expensive thanks to the discovery of a groundbreaking test that only requires a blood sample.

Treating for celiac disease has been made complicated by the fact that testing for it is a complex process involving multiple medics and intrusive technological equipment. Patients can now breathe a sigh of relief as technology has created a simpler alternative.

Researchers at the University of Oslo, Faculty of Medicine have come up with a new method of diagnosing celiac disease that only requires a patient’s blood sample. The sample analysis will reveal whether a patient is suffering from the disease.

Celiac disease causes the human immune system to confuse gluten with bacteria or viruses, triggering the immune system to attack it. The attack causes the intestine to bloat in an auto-immune reaction. In the process, intestinal lining and internal tissues are damaged, causing the patient to suffer from weight loss, stomach pains and reduced nutrient absorption.

Previously, testing for the disease involved taking a blood sample and tissue sample from the small intestine. The sample was taken through a procedure that involved passing a medical tube into the body through the throat all the way down to the small intestine. The procedure is extremely unpleasant and for children, an anesthetic is required.

The new research works by analyzing HLA molecules contained in the duodenum. HLA molecules are representatives of what a patient consumes and also what is in the cells. According to Asbjorn Christophersen, a postdoctoral fellow at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Oslo, “When the food that you eat enters the small intestine, it is reduced to tiny fractions and presented to the T cells on so-called HLA molecules. The task of the T cells is to monitor cells to see if they are infected by viruses or bacteria.”

In the new test, a blood sample is exposed to reagents that bind themselves to T cells in the sample. Magnetized antibodies are then introduced to the sample, also binding themselves onto the reagents.

Christophersen said, “When we allow blood cells to flow through a magnetic column, the cells that react to gluten remain suspended in the column while all the other cells flow through it. We observe that celiacs have a much higher number of gluten-reactive T cells in their blood than non-celiacs.”

The research shows that celiacs can be diagnosed much simpler and faster, without great inconvenience on their part. However, the researchers are skeptical the test may be made available any time soon as it has to undergo more testing and approval by the authorities.

Celiac disease prevalence has been on the rise. Many celiacs do not know they have the disease since its testing is costly and complicated. The new test will offer thousands of celiacs relief from medical bills and intrusive procedures that were a headache before.

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