The treatment of celiac disease is based on lifelong withdrawal of foods containing gluten. Unfortunately, compliance with a gluten-free diet has proved poor in many patients (mainly due to its low palatability), emphasizing the need for cereal varieties that are not toxic for celiac patients. In evolutionary terms, Triticum monococcum is the oldest and most primitive cultivated wheat. The aim of this study was to evaluate the toxicity of T. monococcum on small intestinal mucosa, using an in vitro organ culture system.
Distal duodenum biopsies of 12 treated celiac patients and 17 control subjects were cultured for 24 h with T. aestivum (bread) gliadin (1 mg/ml) or with T. monococcum gliadin (1 mg/ml). Biopsies cultured with medium alone served as controls. Each biopsy was used for conventional histological examination and for immunohistochemical detection of CD3 + intraepithelial lymphocytes (IELs) and HLA-DR. Secreted cytokine protein interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) was measured in the culture supernatant using an enzyme-linked immunoadsorbent assay.
Significant morphological changes, HLA-DR overexpression in the crypt epithelium and an increased number of CD3 + IELs, found after bread gliadin exposure, were not observed in celiac biopsies cultured with T. monococcum gliadin. In contrast, with bread gliadin, there was no significant IFN-gamma response after culture with monococcum gliadin. Similarly, biopsies from normal controls did not respond to bread or monococcum gliadin stimulation.
These data show a lack of toxicity of T. monococcum gliadin in an in vitro organ culture system, suggesting new dietary opportunities for celiac patients.