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Coeliac Research Lab

Laboratory Head
6 members

About the lab

Coeliac disease is a common immune illness caused by gluten, a food protein from wheat, barley and rye. More than one in 70 Australians have coeliac disease but most remain undiagnosed. People with coeliac disease can experience disabling symptoms to gluten, impaired quality of life and serious health effects such as autoimmune disease, osteoporosis and cancer. The only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet which is onerous, lifelong and often unsuccessful in completely resolving symptoms and intestinal damage.

We are a multidisciplinary team of scientists and clinicians and we work closely with national and international academic and industry collaborators. Our research employs studies powered by human participants to investigate the immune, genetic and environmental factors that make gluten toxic for people with coeliac disease.

We use this information to help us work out how coeliac disease develops, test improved diagnostic tests, understand how gluten causes symptoms and develop better ways to treat coeliac disease that, ultimately, will allow people to live healthier and better lives.

Our mission

The Coeliac Research Lab’s mission is to improve the lives of people suffering coeliac disease and those burdened with symptoms caused by gluten.

Coeliac disease, a chronic immune illness affecting 370,000+ Australians, greatly impacts people’s health and quality of life and increases healthcare expenditure.

Our research addresses patients unmet needs experienced in their journey from diagnosis through to treatment.

Our vision is to:

  1. improve coeliac diagnosis – to address the high rate of missed or delayed diagnoses and make testing simpler and more accurate
  2. optimise the gluten-free diet – to increase its efficacy, safety and nutritional quality
  3. develop better treatments – to dramatically improve the health and quality of life of coeliac patients by better control of symptoms and more effective alternatives to the gluten-free diet
  4. prevent coeliac disease – to examine the genetic and environmental basis for coeliac disease development to inform preventative strategies

Impact

Our team have made important discoveries on the parts of gluten that trigger immune responses in coeliac disease that have underpinned the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches and novel “coeliac friendly” food.

Our work to develop and refine tools to monitor the gluten-specific T cells in coeliac disease is helping to inform the development of new drug treatments in collaboration with industry.

Our clinical studies have shed light on several important aspects of coeliac disease care, such as oats safety in coeliac disease, the role of non-invasive tools to monitor the gluten-free diet and the prevalence of gluten contamination in gluten-free food services.

Lab research projects

Lab team

Enquiries from prospective Honours or PhD students and postdocs, including clinicians interested in research, are welcome.

6 members
Amy Russell
Program Coordinator
Jessica Harte
Research Officer
Dr Linda Fothergill
Research Assistant
Senior Research Officer
Interested in supporting our research?

Your support will help WEHI’s researchers make discoveries and find treatments to ensure healthier, longer lives for you and your loved ones.

Contact our friendly team to find out how you can help.