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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    A Sweet Pill For Celiacs to Swallow? Progress on Enzyme Therapy for Celiac Disease

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 02/07/2008 - Are we close to finding a way for people with gluten intolerance and celiac disease to safely break down and properly digest wheat gluten and protein? An article recently published in the medical journal Gut describes the results of laboratory experiments in which doctors duplicated a human digestive tract and isolated an enzyme that degrades wheat gluten and protein. Moreover, the results show that the enzyme also eliminated the toxic response to the wheat gluten and protein common in folks with gluten intolerance and celiac disease.

    According to the researchers, if a full-scale trial confirms the results, people with gluten intolerance and celiac disease might be able to safely stray from their strict gluten-free diets on occasion.

    The enzyme is prolyl endoprotease isolated from Aspergillus niger and shows the power to quickly and effectively break down gluten peptides and proteins in a simulated human digestive tract. The enzyme has a similar pH level to that of the stomach, and remains intact in the stomach’s strongly acidic conditions.

    The research team, led by Dr. C. Mitea from Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands tested the enzyme in a controlled system built to function in way that is nearly identical with the human gastrointestinal tract.

    According to the report, the enzyme increased the digestion speed of the glutenins and gliadins that are found in white bread, and which people with gluten intolerance and celiac disease cannot properly break down. After 90 minutes, the gluten proteins treated with the enzyme were undetectable, whereas those glutens not treated with the enzyme, remained in the stomach for at least two hours.

    The research team obtained similar results when they repeated the test on a fast food meal rather than just white bread alone, and showed that the enzyme treated food samples also eliminated adverse T-cell stimulatory activity that occurred in untreated samples. The tests showed that, in the same amount of time that food normally remains in the stomach, the enzyme brought about the total elimination of T-cell stimulatory peptides of gliadins and glutenins.

    From the test results, the research team concluded that the enzyme is a solid choice for clinical trials to determine if it can eliminate 100% of gluten toxicity. They also noted that the enzyme is readily available in industrial quantities, and thus easy to tailor into a suitable treatment should trials prove fruitful.

    Gut, Jan 2008; 57: 25 - 32.

    Editor's Note: This is not a therapy that is designed to allow celiacs to eat gluten on a daily basis. At best it will allow them to not worry about cross-contamination when eating out.

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    Guest Dr. Stephen Wangen


    I am a doctor specializing in gluten intolerance, IBS, and food allergies. Enzymes that digest gluten already exist and are on the market. The research mentioned here is only confirming their effectiveness. Previous research by Dr. Mitea (PMID: 16690904) and others has also been published on enzymes. We offer patients at our clinic, the IBS Treatment Center, an enzyme product called GlutEnzyme which has been effective for minimizing the damage from accidental ingestion of gluten for many of our patients. Your doctor should be able to get it for you. However, it is essential to remember that it is not a cure for celiac disease or gluten intolerance and should only be used to minimize the damage from the accidental ingestion of gluten.

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    We would LOVE to get some of the Celiac Rapid Home Test. This is something any celiac would want to keep on hand!


    Feeling unwell and being able to confirm that something eaten seems to have had gluten would be very helpful - For example, managing concerns as to what might be wrong (some have related conditions due to late diagnosis, are in a pregnancy, etc). They are on the market in the UK.

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    My sister, father and I all have gluten intolerance. I have been taking the Gluten Ease when I go out to eat. It seems to help when I only eat out infrequently. If I eat gluten every day and take the Gluten Ease, after a few days, the gluten intolerance symptoms come back.

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    Sounds too good to be true. We'll see after several people have tested it on themselves if this is possibly what our intestine digestive system is missing. My digestion disorder (celiac disease) is at its worst form, its genetic from my mother and grandfather who presented similar symptoms for years. If this enzyme is functional in aiding in cross contamination then how much will I need to buy every month? The cost might be more than just staying clear and on organic raw vegis/fruits/fish. I'm so use to the diet now.

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    My Father-in-law is actually participating in trials right now. I don't know which enzyme they are testing, but the regimen is to take the first pill 15 minutes before eating, and the second in the middle of the meal. It sounds like a pill, like Lactaid, to allow people with a reaction to gluten to eat gluten containing products. Sorry I didn't grill him for more details!

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in biology, anatomy, medicine, science, and advanced research, and scientific methods. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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