The Center for Celiac Research recently relocated to MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The relocation brought Director Alessio Fasano, MD, an international leader in celiac disease research and treatment, to New England and will allow the center to work closely with celiac centers at other Boston hospitals.
For a patient with celiac disease, consuming gluten—a common protein found in wheat, rye and barley—can cause gastrointestinal problems and other symptoms such as anemia, fatigue and headaches. Celiac disease leads to damage of the small intestine and problems absorbing nutrients, which can usually be reversed by following a strict gluten-free diet.
Dr. Fasano trained as a pediatric gastroenterologist in Naples, Italy, where celiac disease has long been studied and diagnosed. Upon arriving in the United States in the 1990s, he was shocked at the lack of awareness surrounding celiac disease. He founded the Center for Celiac Research in 1996 to better educate doctors and dieticians on the disease, advocate for patients and advance research.
Increasing Awareness of Celiac Disease
After establishing the center, Dr. Fasano conducted a landmark epidemiological study using 13,145 blood samples, which showed that 1 in 133 Americans suffer from celiac disease. These results helped to dramatically increase awareness of celiac disease across the United States.
Dr. Fasano’s latest research focuses on the potential link between gluten-related disorders and schizophrenia or autism spectrum disorder in certain subgroups of patients with these conditions. With international collaborators, he is also looking for a biomarker to diagnose gluten sensitivity and researching the best time to introduce gluten into an infant’s diet.
The celiac center at MGHfC aims to improve the quality of life of adult and pediatric patients suffering from gluten-related disorders. By working with local experts, Dr. Fasano says, “We can combine our complementary strengths and provide even better care and greater efficiencies for patients.”
For more information, please visit www.celiaccenter.org.