Right now, the only treatment available for people with celiac disease is a diet free of gluten. That’s not always easy, but a new health breakthrough indicates that a pill that could help celiac patients overcome their sensitivity to gluten might not be far off. The pill being developed would be like the lactase pills that people who are lactose intolerant take, so they can consume dairy safely.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the digestive tract can’t break down the gluten found in many grain products (like wheat, rye, and barley). Instead, the consumption of gluten causes inflammation. Stomach enzymes transform gluten into peptides, which are harmless for most people. But for people with celiac disease, peptides can cause faulty immune responses and pain.
Because the only method to deal with celiac disease, so far, is by following a diet free of gluten, there has been a marked increase in the number of gluten-free products available. But since it’s not always possible to avoid gluten entirely, researchers are working to develop another enzyme that would help to further break down peptides in the stomach, making gluten safe for people with celiac disease to consume.
In acidic conditions (like those in the stomach), the enzyme they developed —α-gliadin peptidase—has been found to break down more than 95% of a gluten peptide linked to celiac disease. This newly engineered enzyme could well make gluten-free diets a thing of the past.
Sources for Today’s Articles:
Help on the Horizon for People with Celiac Disease
Gordon, S., et al., “Computational Design of an α-Gliadin Peptidase,” J. Am. Chem. Soc. 2012; 134 (50): 20,513–20,520.