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Gluten-Free Diet in Patients With Gluten Sensitivity and Cerebellar Ataxia

The safety and scientific validity of this study is the responsibility of the study sponsor and investigators. Listing a study does not mean it has been evaluated by the U.S. Federal Government. Read our disclaimer for details. Identifier: NCT00006492
Recruitment Status : Completed
First Posted : November 10, 2000
Last Update Posted : March 4, 2008
Information provided by:
National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC)

Brief Summary:

This study will screen patients with cerebellar ataxia to check for antibodies that indicate allergy to gluten (wheat protein) and will study the effect of a gluten-free diet in patients with these antibodies. Patients with cerebellar ataxia have problems with coordination, resulting in "clumsiness" and unsteadiness of posture and walking.

There are many known causes of cerebellar ataxia, but in many patients the cause is unknown and there are no available treatments. Cerebellar ataxia has been recognized as a complication of celiac disease, a syndrome characterized by sensitivity to gluten. Recognizing gluten sensitivity in patients with cerebellar ataxia would be important for two reasons: it would be one of the rare causes of the disease that are potentially treatable, and it would identify patients at risk for developing gastrointestinal cancers, particularly intestinal lymphoma.

Patients with cerebellar ataxia of known or unknown cause and normal healthy volunteers of any age are eligible for this study.

All participants will have a medical history, physical examination, blood drawn (30 milliliters, or 2 tablespoons) to check for celiac disease antibodies, and possibly other lab tests. This completes the participation of normal volunteers.

All patients will have magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain. This diagnostic tool uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves instead of X-rays to show structural and chemical changes in tissues. During the scanning, the patient lies on a table in a narrow cylinder containing a magnetic field. He or she can speak with a staff member via an intercom system at all times during the procedure. Scanning times vary from 20 minutes to 2 hours.

Patients who have celiac disease antibodies will have an upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy intestinal biopsy. For this procedure, a flexible tube is inserted into the mouth and down the throat into the stomach and duodenum (the upper part of the small intestine), where a small tissue sample is taken for microscopic examination. Patients with these antibodies will be put on a gluten-free diet and will be followed at NIH every 3 months for 12 months. On the first visit, patients will have their ataxia evaluated using NINDS's ataxia scale and will meet with a dietitian for instructions for a gluten-free diet. On the second through fifth visits (after 3, 6, 9 and 12 months, respectively, on the gluten-free diet), patients will have their ataxia evaluated, speak with a dietitian to assess their nutritional status, weight, and compliance with the diet, and provide a blood sample for celiac disease antibody testing.

At the completion of the study, patients may choose to continue or stop the gluten-free diet. If the ataxia assessments show improvement, patients will be advised to continue the gluten-free diet permanently.

Condition or disease
Celiac Disease Cerebellar Ataxia Healthy

Detailed Description:
In many patients with cerebellar ataxia, the etiology is unknown. Sensitivity to gluten (wheat protein) has been suggested as a cause for cerebellar ataxia even in the absence of malabsorption symptoms or intestinal pathology. However, the prevalence of gluten sensitivity in patients presenting with cerebellar ataxia is unknown and the effect of gluten-free diet on gluten sensitivity-associated cerebellar ataxia has not been systematically studied. The aim of this project is: 1) To identify gluten sensitive cerebellar ataxia patients attending the Human Motor Control Clinic at the NIH using tests for celiac disease antibodies as a screening method. 2) To conduct open-label controlled clinical trial to assess the efficacy of gluten-free diet in the patients identified using a detailed cerebellar ataxia scale as an objective clinical measure.

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Study Type : Observational
Enrollment : 150 participants
Official Title: Open Label Controlled Trial of Gluten-Free Diet in Patients With Gluten-Sensitivity and Cerebellar Ataxia
Study Start Date : November 2000
Study Completion Date : December 2002

Information from the National Library of Medicine

Choosing to participate in a study is an important personal decision. Talk with your doctor and family members or friends about deciding to join a study. To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contacts provided below. For general information, Learn About Clinical Studies.

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Ages Eligible for Study:   Child, Adult, Older Adult
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Patients with sporadic cerebellar ataxia of unknown etiology.


Patients with genetically confirmed cerebellar ataxia (SCA1,2,3,6, and 7, Friedreich's ataxia) or cerebellar ataxia due to known cause (e.g., cerebellar infarct, cerebellar degeneration secondary to alcohol abuse).


With no neurological or psychiatric disease and no medical or family history of celiac disease.

Information from the National Library of Medicine

To learn more about this study, you or your doctor may contact the study research staff using the contact information provided by the sponsor.

Please refer to this study by its identifier (NCT number): NCT00006492

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United States, Maryland
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Bethesda, Maryland, United States, 20892
Sponsors and Collaborators
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
Layout table for additonal information Identifier: NCT00006492    
Other Study ID Numbers: 010003
First Posted: November 10, 2000    Key Record Dates
Last Update Posted: March 4, 2008
Last Verified: December 2002
Keywords provided by National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC):
Celiac Disease
Cerebellar Ataxia
Gluten-Free Diet
Additional relevant MeSH terms:
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Celiac Disease
Cerebellar Ataxia
Neurologic Manifestations
Nervous System Diseases
Cerebellar Diseases
Brain Diseases
Central Nervous System Diseases
Malabsorption Syndromes
Intestinal Diseases
Gastrointestinal Diseases
Digestive System Diseases
Metabolic Diseases