OCT 23, 2019 3:43 PM PDT

Treating Celiac Disease May Be Possible

WRITTEN BY: Kara Marker

Delivering gluten to the body in a friendly, harmless package may be the way for people with celiac disease to finally have a sandwich again. A new clinical trial is the first to successfully use gluten delivery technology that reduces intestinal inflammation in celiac patients in response to consumed gluten.

 

Experts believe that one percent of the world’s population has celiac disease, including 2.5 million undiagnosed Americans. Celiac disease is more common in families; having a first-degree relative with celiac disease drastically increases a person’s risk of developing celiac disease themselves.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the human body reacts to gluten as if it were a pathogen, causing damage to the small intestines. The damage is particularly absorbed in the villi, “small fingerlike projections” that line the inside of the organ and support nutrient absorption during digestion. Autoimmune diseases are usually treated with immunosuppressants, but people with celiac disease usually just stop eating gluten. But does it have to be so?

The new “COUR” nanoparticle (CNP-101) packages up gliadin, a key component of the gluten mixture that includes many distinct proteins. In the clinical trial, researchers separated celiac patients into two groups. One received treatment with CNP-101; both were fed gluten for two weeks one week after treatment.

Celiac patients fed gluten but not treated with CNP-101 showed a predictable immune response to the packaged gliadin, and there was damage in their small intestines reminiscent of celiac disease. The patients provided CNP-101 treatment, however, exhibited 90% less immune inflammation response compared to untreated patients. Small intestines appeared to be protected from relevant damage.

CNP-101 is biodegradable and introduced to the immune system through macrophages, phagocytic cells responsible for engulfing foreign cells and cellular debris. Macrophages tend to destroy the debris and present the foreign cells to other cells of the immune system. Presentation of CNP-101 communicates with the human immune system that the gluten protein packaged within the nanoparticle is harmless and an immune response is not needed.

Researchers are excited about the possibility of this technology being used to retrain the immune system in more than just celiac disease - potentially any allergy or autoimmune disease.

"We have also shown that we can encapsulate myelin into the nanoparticle to induce tolerance to that substance in multiple sclerosis models, or put a protein from pancreatic beta cells to induce tolerance to insulin in type 1 diabetes models,” explained scientist Stephen Miller, PhD.

Autoimmune diseases are typically treated with immunosuppressants. While these types of drugs can help someone with an autoimmune disease live their life, they also prevent the immune system from fighting disease and bear adverse side effects. Instead, retraining the immune system to simply tolerate allergens could reduce symptom severity or eliminate autoimmune disease altogether.

About Gluten

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley that serves as the main storage protein in these plants. It is a heat-stable binding agent common as an additive in processed foods to improve texture, moisture retention, and flavor.

 

Sources: Northwestern University, Celiac Disease Foundation, Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology

About the Author
  • I am a scientific journalist and enthusiast, especially in the realm of biomedicine. I am passionate about conveying the truth in scientific phenomena and subsequently improving health and public awareness. Sometimes scientific research needs a translator to effectively communicate the scientific jargon present in significant findings. I plan to be that translating communicator, and I hope to decrease the spread of misrepresented scientific phenomena! Check out my science blog: ScienceKara.com.
You May Also Like
APR 08, 2021
Immunology
What's That Frozen Pizza Doing to Your Immune System?
APR 08, 2021
What's That Frozen Pizza Doing to Your Immune System?
In a recent study, scientists found that commonly-used chemical additives added to processed foods can have toxic effect ...
APR 28, 2021
Health & Medicine
Irish National Surveillance Study Finds that Underlying Chronic Conditions Worsen COVID-19 Outcomes
APR 28, 2021
Irish National Surveillance Study Finds that Underlying Chronic Conditions Worsen COVID-19 Outcomes
Globally, more than 2 million people have died with SARS-CoV-2 infection. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates ...
APR 28, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Learning More About the Sugars That Mediate Immune Interactions
APR 28, 2021
Learning More About the Sugars That Mediate Immune Interactions
Sugar is something sweet to add to your food, but just like fat, different types of sugars play important roles in biolo ...
MAY 12, 2021
Health & Medicine
Researchers Discover a New Genetic Disease that Prevents Antibody Formation
MAY 12, 2021
Researchers Discover a New Genetic Disease that Prevents Antibody Formation
Doctors at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia discovered a new genetic disease that prevents B cell development.
MAY 19, 2021
Health & Medicine
Who Ages Better, Men or Women?
MAY 19, 2021
Who Ages Better, Men or Women?
The answer depends on what's considered more important – quantity or quality of years?  Previous studies ...
MAY 24, 2021
Immunology
How Grief Can Affect the Immune System
MAY 24, 2021
How Grief Can Affect the Immune System
A new study by researchers at Rice University has shown that sleep loss often following the death of a spouse can have l ...
Loading Comments...