Doctors at the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research have received a major boost in their efforts to find new treatments, and even a cure, for the autoimmune disease - a $45 million donation that is a record for the university system. The donation, directed by the family of a grateful patient from Indiana, will be announced today by the center's director, Dr. Alessio Fasano.Fasano said the money will be used to create a first-of-its-kind institute that could eventually employ up to 200 doctors and researchers. They will not only study the often-misdiagnosed celiac disease but use it as a model to study other related diseases, including diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. "Finding enough money is always a problem," Fasano said in an interview about the donation. "What we really need for a major breakthrough is thinking out of the box, and this will allow us to do just that." He said his research shows that the disease is not as rare as once thought. One in 133 people are sufferers, yet most still don't know that the cause of their troubles is eating gluten, a protein in wheat, rye and barley found in much of the human diet. Genes are inherited for the disease, which can surface in children and adults, and which, unlike an allergy, can't be outgrown.
Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun