L.A. Times reporter Cathryn Delude has written a great summary article of the efforts underway to develop treatments for Celiac Disease. You can find the full article in the December 21st edition called “New hope for Celiac Disease“.
She writes that there are two categories of treatments being developed:
1. Enzyme therapy, that would supplement a gluten-free diet and protect patients from occasional gluten exposure, and;
2. Immunotherapy, that would train the immune system to tolerate gluten and allow one to eat a regular diet.
Here’s a quick summary of the article.
Enzyme therapy uses oral enzymes that target gluten. Humans cannot completely digest gluten as we lack the digestive enzymes to break it down. Stanford researchers are combining enzymes from bacteria and barley to finish this digestion. Tests in rats proved to be promising. Alvine Pharmaceuticals is now recruiting patients for a Phase II clinical trial. Phase II trial testing of a different enzyme therapy drug, Larazotide, by Alba Therapeutics, is almost complete.
Immunotherapy is proported to allow Celiacs to eat a regular diet by quelling T-cell immune response. A company, Nexpep, is packaging the gluten peptides that trigger the immune response in a vaccine delivered under the skin to desensitize the immune reaction. Testing is said to have worked well in animals. Phase I safety trials of the vaccine, Nexvax2, will be completed in mid-2010.
Some of you may have also heard of the hook worm approach. This is where a hookworm is put in the gut to relieve asthma. Researchers have now tested it on 20 patients with celiac disease to see if they have benefits from it as a low-tech immunotherapy. The results haven’t been published but all the patients in the trial refused medication that would kill the parasites after the trial was complete.