Healthy Living

New Harvard and MassGeneral Study Will Explore Celiac Development

Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital are currently recruiting 250 infants to participate in their new study that plans to look at the various factors that affect celiac disease's development. For more information or to participate, visit

There have been a multitude of studies that examine the various factors that contribute to autoimmune diseases worldwide, especially celiac disease.

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The Center for Celiac Research at MassGeneral and the Celiac Program at Harvard Medical School have gathered a skilled group of doctors and scientists to conduct a study called Celiac Disease Genomic Environmental Microbiome and Metabolic (CDGEMM), in order to understand and identify the various factors that are associated with the development of celiac disease.

The study will take place over a significant time period and across multiple centers. Researchers want to follow infants, who have either a parent or sibling with celiac disease, from birth to childhood. As this study is considered multi-center, scientists are looking to collect data from the patients' local pediatrician's offices.

CDGEMM is seeking participants for this study

Their study plans to take place on both a national and international level, as it is looking into areas that have a higher prevalence of celiac disease than others, like the United States, Italy and Spain. Those who are eligible to be a part of the study are infants who are still in the womb or under 6 months of age.

What is CDGEMM?    

The CDGEMM study is a collaborative study with MassGeneral and Harvard Medical School that is focused on identifying and further understanding the factors that play into the development of celiac disease. The study is led by Dr. Alessio Fasano, and his team's goal is to look at the main factors that contribute to the disease to hopefully find a pattern, which would lead them to creating treatment and predicting the disease's development. The main factors that these researchers plan to look into are genomic, environmental, microbiome and metabolomic, or GEMM for short.

Genomic ultimately refers to what is in our DNA, which is responsible for the physiological and psychological traits that are present in our bodies. If researchers look into infants who have either a parent or sibling with celiac disease, they can understand why certain parts of someone's DNA triggers the disease's onset. According to their website, we already know which group of DNA is involved with celiac disease, but researchers of the CDGEMM want to know why only a select number of patients with these genes go on to develop celiac while others do not.

This is why they want to consider other factors in triggering the onset of celiac disease, such as environmental. They want to look into several factors like:

  • Delivery: Does the type of delivery of the baby matter, whether it be vaginal or through a C-section?
  • Feeding: Is celiac disease triggered by whether or not a baby is breast-fed or bottle-fed?
  • When they began certain foods: Does the timing of foods matter when looking into celiac disease?

Environmental factors can also concern medical history, like whether or not other illnesses, infections, and even issues with growth can be related to celiac disease. The main question that these researchers and scientists want to understand is if any of these factors can set the disease off on their own, or in combination with one another.

They also want to look into factors that are related to the microbiome, which is bacteria in the gut that helps our bodies digest food for necessary energy and vitamins. What many may not know is that gut bacteria has a profound role in the development of someone's immune system. One of the main issues with celiac disease, however, is how a patients' immune system is triggered when gluten is present, thus destroying the villi in the small intestine.

So, you can see that there is clearly a relationship between the functioning of gut bacteria with celiac disease. The CDGEMM wants to look at this relationship further, particularly before and after celiac disease develops. By looking into more specific parts of the relationship, researchers believe it will help them learn how to predict celiac disease, and possibly prevent it.

And, finally, scientists of the CDGEMM study want to look into the metabolomic factors that play a role in the development of celiac disease. Metabolomic refers to the products created from digestive processes, including vitamin production. These products, otherwise known as metabolites, have various factors when it comes to their development and therefore are not the same in each person. In looking at groups of metabolites called metabolomes, they want to understand the patterns that are associated with celiac disease while monitoring for the disease's development in the recruited infants.

By identifying the relationship between these factors, they hope to find a way to detect celiac disease early in patients, and maybe even prevent it from developing.

As there is no standard of care for those with celiac disease other than going on a gluten-free diet, they hope that with their research, effective treatment will be soon promised.

But, for this, they need your help.

What participants need to know

The study wants to recruit infants, or those who aren't born yet, who have a mother, father, brother or sister who is already diagnosed with celiac disease. They are also looking for infants who haven't yet been introduced to solid foods. The study will last about 5 years, and every 6 months, the participants are required to complete a study visit, which may include collecting stools to look at the bacteria from their intestines, drawing blood to see if the child has genes associated with celiac disease, and collecting data on their medical history, their illnesses and their growth.

All of this will help researchers study the main factors that contribute to celiac disease.

Initially, the researchers will also ask a series of questions that help them understand the parent's own medical history, diet and pregnancy for them to have a basic understanding of the infant while in the womb. In addition to that, they will also ask for samples of the mother’s stool, breast milk and the baby's stool.

What's also exciting about this study is that it’s easily accessible. Your child will not need to go to MassGeneral’s or Harvard's Medical School to actively participate in this study, as you only need to take them to your local pediatrician.  It is also completely free of charge for your infant to participate if they meet all of the requirements.

Here are a few of the benefits of your involvement:

  • Your child will be closely monitored for celiac disease, making it possible to detect the disease early and have access to treatment right away.
  • Your child will also be tested to see if they have inherited the genes associated with the development of celiac disease.
  • You and your child will make history! You will be joining a versatile and skilled team of researchers and scientists in an active role of further understanding how celiac disease develops.
  • You will join a community of families who are struggling with celiac disease and have the same goals in mind: improving the medical field's knowledge of the autoimmune disease. Knowledge leads to improvement, and improvement leads to better treatment and care.

Contact Information: If you are a parent and interested in enrolling your infant in this study, please contact for more information, or visit their website,


The study outlined above is exclusively provided by Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. FindaTopDoc is not connected to the study in any way other than to report on its availability to parents of the Celiac Community.  The content of this article is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice and is provided for information only. As always, we recommend seeking the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.