Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease which is triggered by gluten. Coeliac sufferers experience an immune reaction when eating foods such as wheat, barley and rye, which damages the lining of the small intestine.
Scientists in the UK and Australia gave 200 patients bread, rye muffins or boiled barley to eat, then tested their blood six days later to see how their immune systems responded.
This showed that 90 of the 2,700 protein fragments that make up gluten had been treated as toxic by their bodies. However, three of these proteins were categorised as being particularly bad. It is these bad particles that have been identified as the main causes of coeliac disease and could provide the clues to developing treatments for millions of people.
The study was published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.