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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Will a Pill Soon Enable Celiac Patients to Eat Gluten?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Caption: Photo: CC--doug88888

    Celiac.com 01/16/2013 - Scientists are making progress on the creation of a pill that would allow people with celiac disease to safely eat gluten in much the same way that lactase pills allow people with lactose intolerance to eat dairy products without upsetting digestion.

    Photo: CC--doug88888As with lactase, the approach involves the use of an enzyme to break down the gluten that causes celiac symptoms.

    When people consume wheat, rye or barley, enzymes in the stomach break down gluten into smaller pieces, called peptides. For most people, these peptides are harmless. But for the 2 million-3 million Americans with celiac disease, the peptides trigger an autoimmune response and painful symptoms.

    Currently, the only way for people with celiac disease to avoid the autoimmune response and the accompanying symptoms is to avoid gluten altogether.

    However, Justin Siegel, Ingrid Swanson Pultz and colleagues think that an enzyme might be able to further break down the offending peptides in the stomach, thus permitting people with celiac disease to safely eat gluten-containing foods.

    Their efforts led to the discovery of a naturally occurring enzyme that has some of the ideal properties for doing so. They then used a computer to modify the enzyme in the laboratory so that it would do the job completely.

    The newly engineered enzyme, which they called KumaMax, breaks down more than 95 percent of gluten peptides associated with celiac disease in acidic conditions that mimic the stomach.

    Clearly, further research and trials are needed, but these early results make the new enzyme a strong candidate for oral use in the treatment of celiac disease.

    What do you think? Would you take spill that allowed your body to safely digest gluten from wheat, barley or rye without any of the symptoms or damage associated with celiac disease? Share your thoughts in the comments box below.


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    I WOULD!! We are constantly traveling abroad, sometimes to 2nd and 3rd world countries and its impossible to avoid contamination. And try to explain your issue... good luck! So bring on that pill and maybe I can see more of these countries instead of just their bathrooms!

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    Don't know? I was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Since STOPPING treating MS and eating STRICTLY gluten-free, my MS has been benign. Not sure if the pill would stop the route gluten takes in disease process when it isn't typical.

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    No one has mentioned the fact that gluten-free products have become a very profitable industry. What effect will this have on the progress of such a pill if any? What other set of consumers pay so high an individual price for such small quantities of products??

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    Why is our Rx pill dependent world so eager to solve a problem that already has a solution? Stop eating gluten and exercise will power, educate yourself and others, and show determination to control what you put in your face. I'm a 17 year diagnosed celiac and love the new world that I have been involved in and this is not a breakthrough it's another mistake in modern medicine. Spend the research in helping the FDA and others to change the way food allergens are labeled and manufactured to advance our society.

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    I'd go for it, but not to be able to eat a whole loaf of bread, but only to get rid of traces of gluten found in cross contaminated food. I'll keep going on with the gluten-free diet until they'll find something which will eliminate the risk completely. However, I'd use such a pill to eat in restaurants without worrying that staff don't really care in the kitchen.

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    I sincerely doubt I would go back to eating gluten all the time - too sick for too long to be comfortable with that. But... IF it works... maybe something as a treat now and again. There are things that just CAN'T be made gluten-free!

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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 science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. 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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