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Celiac disease: New remedy for gluten intolerance


New drug can alleviate symptoms of celiac disease or even completely eliminate it

According to health experts, about one to two percent of the German population suffer from gluten intolerance (celiac disease). Affected people have to pay close attention to their diet, since eating gluten-containing foods can cause numerous complaints. However, researchers have now developed a remedy that can alleviate or even completely eliminate the symptoms of celiac disease.

Strict avoidance of gluten

Celiac disease (gluten intolerance) is a fairly common illness - about one to two percent of the European population suffer from it. It manifests itself in hypersensitivity to gluten, a protein that is found in cereals such as wheat, barley or rye. Affected people must strictly follow their diet. When eating gluten-containing foods, you experience typical symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, and fatty stools. However, Austrian researchers have now developed a medical device that can alleviate or even completely eliminate the symptoms of celiac disease.

Lifelong intolerance

Celiac disease is a chronic disease of the small intestine that is caused by a life-long intolerance to the gluten protein.

The exact causes that can lead to this intolerance are still unknown.

Therapy is not yet available. Only strict avoidance of the glue protein, which is found in many types of grain such as wheat, spelled and rye, can help.

Product should be on the market in a few years

However, there are efforts to treat celiac disease. However, the proposed drugs affect the immune system, reports the Technical University (TU) Vienna in a message. Therefore, possible side effects must be examined very carefully.

According to the information, the first clinical studies are ongoing, but they will not lead to a marketable product in the next few years.

At the Vienna University of Technology, they went a different way and developed no medication that interferes with the immune system, but a simple medical device that directly attacks and makes the gluten molecules harmless.

This makes the approval process much easier, and the product should be available in ordinary pharmacies by 2021.

Antigens are rendered harmless by an immune reaction

"Our body produces antibodies that match the invading antigens like a key to the lock - this immune reaction makes these antigens harmless," explains Prof. Oliver Spadiut, head of the research group Integrated Bioprocess Development at the Vienna University of Technology.

"If you now find and produce a novel antibody fragment that docks onto the invading gluten molecule and blocks it, but without stimulating the immune system, you can suppress the symptoms of celiac disease."

The aim of the research project was therefore to create a complex from two such novel antibody fragments, which to a certain extent surround the gluten molecule so that it can have no further effects in the intestine.

To do this, you have to reprogram certain bacteria so that they produce exactly the desired antibody fragment.

"The formation of such proteins in a bacterium is a very complicated process," explains Oliver Spadiut. "It can easily happen that the proteins are not folded exactly in the desired way."

Well reproducible process

Instead of the desired antibody fragments, so-called “inclusion bodies” are created - small particles that consist of incorrectly folded proteins.

A process had to be developed to unfold these inclusion bodies again and to obtain the desired proteins from them.

Such processes, in which the folding of proteins is specifically changed, have not been studied very well and are therefore not very efficient.

"You have to understand the chemical processes involved in this process very precisely, and intervene to control them in a complicated way," says Spadiut.

"It therefore took a while - but now we have developed a process that is easily reproducible, scalable on an industrial scale and delivers a very good yield of the desired product."

Take the preparation together with foods containing gluten

"It will be a preparation that celiac patients can take with foods containing gluten to help alleviate celiac symptoms," explains Spadiut.

"It remains to be seen whether the symptoms will go away completely or if they will only be alleviated - that will also vary from person to person," said the expert.

"In any case, we are confident that the product will be available in ordinary pharmacies by 2021." (Ad)

Author and source information


Video: Celiac Disease and Gluten Disorders in Children (November 2021).