Breakthrough in Celiac Disease Offers Hope
A breakthrough in celiac disease research may help those who suffer with this condition to minimize or avoid damage to the small intestine. The new study and discovery are the first evidence of a potential treatment option for people with celiac disease.
If you cannot tolerate gluten, the presence of this protein in your diet and thus in your intestinal tract causes damage to the small intestine. Along with the damage can come symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, bloating, rash, seizures, weight loss, muscle cramps, mouth sores, diarrhea, and more.
Thus far, the only really effective way for people with celiac disease to avoid symptoms and intestinal damage is to completely avoid gluten. If you have the disease, you know how challenging this can be, especially since gluten is frequently a hidden ingredient in many processed foods.
New celiac disease study
According to the authors of the new phase 2 study, they have found a non-dietary way to reduce a person’s exposure and therefore potential harm from gluten. The substance is called ALV003, and it is a gluten-specific enzyme.
In the six-week study, which was conducted in Finland, the 41 adult participants followed a gluten-free diet. Twenty of the adults were challenged with a small amount of gluten (equivalent to half a slice of bread, or 2 grams) plus given the enzyme while the other group (21) were challenged but received a placebo. All the participants underwent a duodenal biopsy at baseline and after the challenge with gluten.
The biopsies of participants who received placebo showed evidence of mucosal damage while those of individuals who received the enzyme did not. Symptoms experienced by the two groups did not differ significantly, but they were less severe among those who took the enzyme.
Why is this study important for people who suffer with celiac disease? It reveals a potential non-dietary treatment option that may reduce small intestinal mucosal damage that can occur even when patients are careful about their diet.
This new discovery is not a cure, but it may open the doors for critically important advances in how to manage this serious condition. In fact, a large (500 participants) multicenter trial is currently underway to further investigate the use of ALV003 in celiac disease.
Lahdeaho M-L et al. Glutenase ALV003 attenuates gluten-induced mucosal injury in patients with celiac disease. Gastroenterology 2014; 146(7): 1649-58