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Evaluation of a new gluten-free cereal for individuals with coeliac disease (Forbes U20MEDSF)

Project Description

The University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK offers a PhD programme based on the evaluation of a novel cereal as a putative safe alternative to wheat in patients with coeliac disease.

About 1% of Caucasian populations suffer from coeliac disease in which there is severe intolerance of the gluten present in all wheat products. Affected individuals must avoid anything made from wheat and some other cereals. Gluten-free foods exist but are generally made from flour from which all protein has been removed. As well as depleting these foods nutritionally this process also removes much of the taste and texture that leads to their normal appeal.

We have found that some of the glutens normally present in wheat are functional in culinary terms, but (in vitro) are not toxic to the intestine of patients with coeliac disease. We now have a modified maize that has been altered to express these “coeliac-safe” glutens and plan a programme of investigation to determine whether this maize is safe and acceptable in vivo in patients with the disease.

The investigative programme is in three phases.
Phase 1: confirmation of lack of toxicity in vitro by assessment of short-term cultures of biopsies from patients with coeliac disease with the new cereal
Phase 2: clinical trial of the new cereal with thorough clinical, serological and histological monitoring
Phase 3: taste evaluation studies comparing bread made with the new cereal to commercially available gluten-free alternatives

The PhD student will be closely involved in the laboratory and clinical work of the project. A background in a biomedical discipline is therefore essential.

For more information on the project’s supervisor, please visit:
Type of programme: PhD
Start date of project: October 2020.
Mode of study: full time.
Studentship length: 3 years. (3 year studentships have a (non-funded) 1 year ‘registration only’ period).
Location: UEA.
Entry requirements: First class or upper second class degree in a biomedical discipline from a well-recognised university. High level of competence in the English language.

Funding Notes

This PhD project is offered on a self-funding basis. It is open to applicants with funding or those applying to funding sources. Details of tuition fees can be found at View Website.

A bench fee may also payable on top of the tuition fee to cover specialist equipment or laboratory costs required for the research. The amount charged annually will vary considerably depending on the nature of the project and applicants should contact the primary supervisor for further information about the fee associated with the project


i Biancheri P, Di Sabatino A, Rescigno M, Giuffrida P, Fornasa G, Tsilingiri K, Pender SL, Papadia C, Wood E, Pasini A, Ubezio C, Vanoli A, Forbes A, MacDonald TT, Corazza GR. Abnormal thymic stromal lymphopoietin expression in the duodenal mucosa of patients with coeliac disease. Gut. 2016; 65(10): 1670-80.
ii Wahab W A, Šuligoj T, Ellis J, Côrtez-Real B, Ciclitira PJ. Coeliac disease: immunogenicity studies of barley hordein and rye secalin-derived peptides. Int J Exp Path. 2016; 97(4):303-309.
iii Japelj N, Côrtez-Real B, Šuligoj T, Zhang W, Messing J, Selvarajah U, Ciclitira PJ. Abrogation of Coeliac Immunogenicity of Gluten Peptides by Amino Acid Point Substitutions. Proc. Prolamin Analysis Group, 2017; 37-45.
iv Suligoj T, Ellis HJ, Ciclitira PJ. Monoclonal antibody characterisation of the coeliac toxic gluten content of wheat starch standards for a gluten test kit. Int J Hepatol Gastroenterol 2018: 3,46-49.
v Šuligoj T, Gregorini A, Colomba M, Ellis HJ, Ciclitira PJ. Evaluation of the safety of ancient strains of wheat in coeliac disease reveals heterogeneous small intestinal T cell responses suggestive of coeliac toxicity. Clin Nutr, 2013; 32(6):1043-9.

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