Coeliac disease is a chronic autoimmune condition that runs in families and causes diarrhoea, weight loss and abdominal pain. To control symptoms, a gluten-free diet is a must, because it’s gluten, found in wheat, rye and barley, that kick starts the rogue immune response that leads to disease. This ultrathin section of gut taken from a patient shows two important hallmarks of disease. Firstly, shortened finger-like protrusions (villi) in the gut wall make absorbing nutrients difficult. And secondly, an abundance of immune cells called plasma cells (fluorescing yellow) that churn out a maverick antibody (tagged in green) which locks on to the body’s own gluten-digesting enzymes. It’s these autoantibodies and the plasma cells that produce them that interest scientists. Being able to follow their fate in the coeliac gut will help in understanding just how they contribute to disease.
Written by Caroline Cross
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences (the new name for the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre) the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.