Robert P. Anderson, Pilar Degano, Andrew J. Godkin, Derek P. Jewell & Adrian V.S. Hill
Celiac.com 06/25/2001 - Researchers from the Institute of Molecular Medicine and the Nuffield Department of Gastroenterology at Oxford University lead by Dr Robert Anderson have published a study regarding the toxic fraction of gluten, and the specific immune response to this fraction. To date scientists basic understanding of the mechanism that causes celiac disease has been linked to a broad immune response to a variety of gluten peptides, but researchers lacked specifics about both processes. This general understanding has now become very specific based on this new research. By subjecting 12 people with celiac disease to a gluten challenge and monitoring 51 fragments of the A-gliadin gluten protein in their bodies, researchers have determined the specific celiac disease antigen responsible for damage caused by the disorder, and the specific immune response that is caused by the antigen. The results of the study indicate that initial immune reaction to gluten was caused by only two adjacent fragments of the protein, which actually represented a single A-gliadin sequence. The immune response to this single fragment was identical in 11 out of 12 test subjects with celiac disease, and the immune response was not seen in the control subjects who did not have celiac disease. Researchers in Norway have also replicated these results.
These findings may lead to better diagnostic tests and treatment for celiac disease, including the possibility of a vaccine or a genetically-modified version of wheat that excludes the harmful A-gliadin sequence, thus making it harmless to celiacs. Dr. Robert Anderson believes that a vaccine for celiac disease would likely involve using the toxic peptide itself, or a variation of it, to desensitize a person with the disease to the A-gliadin sequence. Further research in the area is now underway by the team.