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When Good Antibodies Go Bad

Co Authors:

Cassy L. Cozine
Department of Biology
Coe College

Emily C. Gripka
Department of Natural Sciences & Mathematics
University of St. Mary


This interrupted case study was designed for an upper level course in immunology where the topic of autoimmunity is discussed in detail.  The storyline follows a woman with Celiac Disease and the effects that this autoimmune disease has on her life, specifically as it relates to her infertility issues. Although Celiac Disease is only one of many autoimmune diseases, it is a contemporary topic and a disease with which many students are familiar. The prevalence and popularity of gluten-free diets also makes this topic current.  Students should have a background in the basics of B and T cell biology, antibodies and antigens before they use this case to examine the concepts of autoantibodies, hypotheses for the induction of autoimmunity and the manifestations and complications of Celiac Disease. There are also opportunities to discuss types of web-based and scholarly information sources as the students are asked to do research on several emerging topics.

  • Define, draw, and explain what an antibody is.
  • Use a patient's symptoms to make a probable diagnosis of Celiac Disease.
  • Carry out a literature search using the Internet and compare the validity of the different sources of information found, for example, scholarly, open access journal articles, Wikipedia entries, etc.
  • Discuss possible hypotheses for the onset of autoimmune disease.
  • Understand the complications of Celiac Disease and the difficulties of maintaining a gluten-free diet.
Keywords: Autoimmunity; autoimmune disease; celiac disease; antibody; gluten; gluten-free; immune system; immunology
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: Undergraduate upper division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Biology (General)   Medicine (General)  
Date Posted: 1/29/2014
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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