October 21, 2002
Digestive Enzyme May Help Celiac Disease Sufferers
STANFORD, Calif.--Researchers from Stanford University and theUniversity of Oslo in Norway reported peptidase, an enzyme that breaks downproteins, may have promise in the treatment of celiac disease, also known asceliac sprue. This autoimmune disease causes the inability to digest gluten, aprotein found in wheat, rye and barley products.
In the Sept. 27 edition of Science (297:2275-9, 2002) (www.science.com),researchers led by Chaitan Khosla, Ph.D., found that gliadin, a part of gluten,is responsible for celiac disease. They found that gliadin, which is made up of33 amino acids, contained fragments known to induce human T-cells to attack theintestine. Khosla et al showed gliadin is resistant to digestion and isresponsible for the inflammation in the intestine experienced by celiacpatients.
The researchers then exposed gliadin to digestive enzymes in vitro, repeatingthe study in rats and then on human tissue. Because gliadin is rich in the aminoacid proline, peptidase--an enzyme known to digest proline--was shown to breakdown gliadin. Although study has been conducted via test tubes and rats, humantrials are a long way off, Khosla admitted.
"These findings are the first step to giving people with celiac diseasereal hope for a normal life," Khosla said. Usually, the only effectivetreatment for the disease is to follow a gluten-free diet, which is fairlyrestrictive. "We think that this mode of therapy--peptidasesupplementation--may offer hope in treating celiac sprue eventually."
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