Meet the researchers

Our new initiative, ‘Research – a week in focus’ is where we give you the opportunity to meet researchers from key centres around the globe. They are working hard to find answers to the questions you want answered, and so that one day no life is limited by gluten.

Groningen researchers montage in full colour

Our first week in focus featured the super enthusiastic team in the Genetics Department of the University Hospital in Groningen, the Netherlands. Below you can find links to members of the team. 

Iris Jonkers and Sebo Withoff

Principal scientific investigators working to understand how our genetic code—our DNA—contributes to our risk of developing coeliac disease.

Olivier Bakker and Roeland Broekema 

PhD students working to improve the resolution at which we can pin point the DNA building blocks that contribute to coeliac disease.

Chan Li 

Postdoc researcher exploring the causal genes for coeliac disease. 

Renée Moerkens and Joram Mooiweer

PhD students using Gut-on-Chip technology to study coeliac disease.

Jelle Slager

Postdoctoral researcher studying the role of gut bacteria—the gut microbiome—in coeliac disease. A member of the Netherlands Organ-on-Chip Initiative (NOCI). 

Some of the team in Groningen are funded by the Jebsen Coeliac Disease Research Centre (JCoDiRC), Norway, led by Professor Ludvig Sollid. Our Research Manager, Heidi Urwin, is on the patient advisory council of the JCoDiRC and during the annual retreat is where she had the chance to personally meet the researchers and learn about their great work.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’m sure like most people, I am really interested in the why? Why have I suddenly got coeliac disease - I’m 41 and very recently diagnosed. I have read that you can be born with the coeliac gene, so firstly is this true? And secondly, I’ve read that things like heavy stress on the body and pregnancy can trigger the autoimmune response, is this also true?

I would like to know why all three of my young children have coeliac disease via my husband but none of his nieces or nephews have been diagnosed even though they have parents and grandparents with coeliac disease? Also what is the chance of them going on to develop another autoimmune disease as my middle daughter has continued having problems? And finally, do we have specialist coeliac research teams here in the UK?

Is it true that coeliac disease can come about after a childhood illness?

Is anyone working on a pill we can take after being 'glutened' to minimise the awful effects?

Will there be any research undertaken concerning type 3 Bile Acid Diarrhoea (BAD)/Bile Acid Malabsorption (BAM) that is associated with coeliac disease?

Could genetics explain why some people develop neurological conditions and others don't and if so is this something that is being looked at?

How did Gut-on-Chip come about?

I had a negative blood test, no antibodies, but when I went to the hospital for a biopsy they found the damage and I was diagnosed with coeliac disease. Could my genetics be different to someone who did have antibodies?

Are there any genes that predispose people to associated coeliac conditions like type 1 diabetes and thyroid disorders? And might this enable us to predict who might develop these? Also, are there any specific genes associated with Dermatitis herpetiformis and does that tell us why some people develop this coeliac condition?

When working with the Gut-on-Chip, does it matter if you take cells from the urine or blood of people newly diagnosed with coeliac disease and not on a gluten free diet or people who have been diagnosed for a long time and are on a strict gluten free diet? Would the model work the same or differently?

I've had coeliac disease since I was 6 years old - could the research looking at causal genes explain why I developed coeliac disease as a child but others developed it when they are adults?

What research is being done on the link with ulcerative colitis ?

My brother was diagnosed with coeliac disease after having terrible gut issues and anaemia. I didn’t have any symptoms but was screened as a family member, surprisingly I was also diagnosed with coeliac disease. Although we are related could differences in genes explain why he had symptoms and I didn’t?

Are you aware of any large-scale genomic/transcriptomic datasets from coeliac patients which have been published/analysed and uncovered risk genes for coeliac disease/mechanism of action for their dysregulated immune response? Would be interesting to get access to such datasets or see findings.

What attracted you to this area of research?

Has Gut-on-Chip been used to study any other diseases? Could the findings from Gut-on-Chip studying coeliac disease help our understanding of any other conditions?

Are there other disorders/diseases associated with the coeliac gene variants?

Do you believe there is any benefit to screening for coeliac-related genes to identify individuals who may be susceptible (e.g. in relatives of those with diagnosed coeliac disease?)

My Father had coeliac disease and so does my brother (he is my only brother/sister) and also my eldest son is has coeliac disease but my daughter and other son do not. Is your research looking at why this is sporadic?

I have family members with coeliac disease would I reduce my risk of developing coeliac disease if I had probiotics?