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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Peptides responsible for celiac disease identified


Bob Anderson of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s Celiac Center, along with colleagues from that center and from universities in Australia and the UK have identified three protein fragments that are responsible for the majority of celiac symptoms.

Celiac disease is an immune disorder in which the body destroys its own intestinal lining in response to the ingestion of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. This has a number of repercussions for sufferers. In the short term, eating products containing gluten can give celiac patients a range of unpleasant symptoms ranging from nausea and intestinal cramping to diarrhea. In the long term, sufferers are at greater risk for cancer, anemia and other problems. In addition, celiac patients may suffer from vitamin deficiencies. For example, a recent study suggested that children with celiac disease are at risk for osteoporosis and weakened bones unless they add vitamin K and D to their diets.

Although the symptoms of celiac disease can be completely controlled by eliminating gluten from the diet, as any sufferer knows, this is easier said than done. Patients must meticulously read labels to find gluten-free products that can be both elusive and expensive. For this reason, researchers have been hoping to find other ways to treat and cure the disease.

To that end, the scientists carefully fed celiac volunteers 2700 different protein fragments found in wheat, rye or barley. The patients reacted to 90 peptides, but the majority of the immune response was due to only three peptides.

Doctors hope they will be able to use these three peptides in immunotherapy to desensitize people to the affects of gluten. I can attest that immunotherapy is highly affective for other types of allergies. If celiac disease could be cured in this manner it would be a tremendous boon to millions of sufferers in this country.