Using a Quinton hydraulic biopsy tube, jejunal biopsies were obtained from 10 patients with adult coeliac disease in remission and four healthy volunteers before and after administration of gluten fraction III into the proximal duodenum. The biopsies taken at hourly intervals for four hours, were analysed for changes in brush border enzymes, light microscopic appearances, and villous and crypt population counts. The results indicate that mucosal damage occurs within three to four hours of gluten administration with significant falls in brush border enzyme concentrations and villous population counts. The absence of any change in control biopsies indicates that gluten sensitivity is specific to the mucosa of patients with coeliac disease, the timing of the changes being consistent with a type III immune response or direct toxicity. Some recovery of the brush border enzymes but not the villous population was evident 24 hours after gluten administration while the crypt population showed evidence of a compensatory hyperplastic reaction.
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