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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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    Wonder if this will work for dermatitis herpetiformis form of celiac disease. If so, I am all in. My brother has the intestinal form of celiac disease and I have the rash....

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    Guest Janine Quisenberry

    Posted

    Did you notice the part that says they "used a computer to modify the enzyme in the laboratory"? This is a genetically modified enzyme, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have the potential to cause all sorts of problems/imbalances in our bodies. In fact, some people argue that GMOs are to blame for the plethora of food allergies we are seeing in the US today (BT Corn might be causing a leaky gut and allowing food particles to enter the bloodstream, in-turn causing the immune system to react to these foods). I worry that long term, using a genetically modified enzyme to treat Celiac disease could actually make matters worse for people who are already dealing with serious digestive issues. Who knows in what ways this human engineered enzyme will interact with the naturally occurring enzymes and flora in our gut, not to mention the lining of our digestive system.

    I agree. I eat much healthier since I was diagnosed and do not want to go back to some of the unhealthy ingredients I used to ingest. I might use a pill if I was traveling but not on an every day basis. I now prefer my healthy unprocessed food!

     

     

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    Did you notice the part that says they "used a computer to modify the enzyme in the laboratory"? This is a genetically modified enzyme, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have the potential to cause all sorts of problems/imbalances in our bodies. In fact, some people argue that GMOs are to blame for the plethora of food allergies we are seeing in the US today (BT Corn might be causing a leaky gut and allowing food particles to enter the bloodstream, in-turn causing the immune system to react to these foods). I worry that long term, using a genetically modified enzyme to treat Celiac disease could actually make matters worse for people who are already dealing with serious digestive issues. Who knows in what ways this human engineered enzyme will interact with the naturally occurring enzymes and flora in our gut, not to mention the lining of our digestive system.

    I agree, Mar.

    I would want to see a lot more research and doctors' approval before I would even consider taking such a pill.

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    I agree, MTP: digestive enzymes are already on the market. I and my family have gluten intolerance; we buy a very expensive brand and use them to help break down both gluten and dairy in case of accidental ingestion. While they help, I don't know if I'd go so far as to say, hey! a digestive enzyme will cure everything and allow you to eat gluten and never get sick again! Um, as Mar states above, the enzyme has been genetically modified (GMOs, anyone?). I don't put ANY stock in GMOs because I personally do not believe they are good for the body. I think tinkering and tampering with what nature has given us will end up hurting rather than helping in the long run.

    I am unaware of ANY currently available enzyme that allows people with celiac disease to safely eat gluten. Perhaps you can enlighten us with the name of the product and the scientific studies to back that up.

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    I agree, Mar.

    I would want to see a lot more research and doctors' approval before I would even consider taking such a pill.

    While you should be careful, there are several medicines already on the market worth trying. For example, Glutenzyme, HLC Mindlinx, and Glutenease. These products, especially the former 2, are proven VERY effective in tests, and are available on the market. While you try these products on your own risk, I think that for people with anything but the most extremely severe symptoms, even those with intestinal damage such as myself, I think it is worth it to start VERY slow on the gluten and give it a try. If anything goes wrong, stop eating gluten and stop taking the medication.

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    Did you notice the part that says they "used a computer to modify the enzyme in the laboratory"? This is a genetically modified enzyme, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have the potential to cause all sorts of problems/imbalances in our bodies. In fact, some people argue that GMOs are to blame for the plethora of food allergies we are seeing in the US today (BT Corn might be causing a leaky gut and allowing food particles to enter the bloodstream, in-turn causing the immune system to react to these foods). I worry that long term, using a genetically modified enzyme to treat Celiac disease could actually make matters worse for people who are already dealing with serious digestive issues. Who knows in what ways this human engineered enzyme will interact with the naturally occurring enzymes and flora in our gut, not to mention the lining of our digestive system.

    You see, GMOs MIGHT cause problems, but there are two things to consider about that. 1. They MIGHT NOT cause problems. Like you said, SOME people argue that. I have heard that, but where is the evidence? 2. Some GMOs might or might now cause problems, but saying some GMOs cause problems is different than saying because this is genetically modified, it's a problem. I would agree that you need a doctor's approval.

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    I have a horrible physical disability, acronym "MERRF" and dining out and cultural travel was my coping mechanism. Then I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I am desperate. If I didn't have MERRF, I would be the best gluten-free chef around!

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    I take enzymes now if I'm not sure if there's gluten in my meal and it helps a lot so yes I loved the article and I hope this pill comes out soon!!! So excited!!

    Carol where do you get the enzymes and what are they called?

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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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