Dr. Swamy awarded Coeliac UK grant to explore potential treatments for Coeliac disease

Published on 15 April 2024

Coeliac UK have awarded £250,000 to Dr Mahima Swamy for a 3-year research project that they believe will take us further along the ‘Journey to a Cure’ for coeliac disease.

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Dr Swamy, a Principal Investigator in the MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit (MRC-PPU) in the School of Life Sciences, has extensive experience in intestinal immune system research and has previously received grants for her work from organisations such as the Medical Research Council and Wellcome Trust. Dr Swamy’s lab will collaborate with Dr Hugo Penny, a gastroenterologist and National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) Academic Clinical Lecturer and Professor David Sanders, a consultant gastroenterologist, both based in Sheffield and part of the National Centre for Refractory Coeliac Disease. 

Their project aims to investigate how certain enzymes trigger immune cells to damage the gut lining. They'll test if blocking these enzymes stops the damage, potentially shedding light on why the gut is affected in coeliac disease and suggesting new treatment avenues. Some medications blocking these enzymes are already in cancer trials, raising the possibility of repurposing them for refractory coeliac disease treatment, The project will also help us to understand why the gut is damaged in coeliac disease and may generate new ideas to treat coeliac disease. The findings from this project might show whether specific enzyme inhibitors could be used to treat people living with refractory coeliac disease and also avert symptoms in coeliac disease patients that arise from accidental gluten exposure.

Dr Swamy said “When I present my research findings on coeliac disease, I often hear feedback from patients that they would be so happy not to feel sick when inadvertently exposed to gluten. I am excited by the possibility that this idea that was born out of basic research findings in my lab may eventually lead to a potential treatment for coeliac disease. I am thrilled to partner with Dr Penny and Professor Sanders from the National Centre for Refractory Coeliac Disease in Sheffield, and with Coeliac UK, to work towards making this possibility a reality.”

The project will commence in Autumn 2024 and is expected to run for three years. 

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