Study Finds Enzyme to Control Celiac Disease (Gluten Intolerance)
October 09, 2002
In an effort to
find a safe and effective therapy to treat the widespread
disease Celiac Sprue, Stanford chemist and engineer Chaitan
Khosla founded the Celiac Sprue Research Foundation, a non-profit
public charity. The Foundation has been established to help
improve the lives of the approximately 1 in 200 people afflicted
with Celiac Sprue by promoting research and development, and
by enhancing awareness of the disease among scientists, clinicians,
the pharmaceutical industry, food product manufacturers and
the general public.
Dr. Khosla's latest
research, published in Science, reveals the possibility for
enzyme therapy as a way to treat the widespread disease, Celiac
Sprue, caused by a toxic reaction to gluten that produces
malabsorption of foods and vitamins.
The high frequency
of Celiac Sprue is not generally appreciated by physicians
in the Untied States, and patients often suffer for many years
before the diagnosis is made. Then the requirement for a strict
lifelong diet devoid of wheat and most grains becomes a burden
for the patient and their families.
Gluten Is Toxic
For Celiac Sprue Patients
Gluten is one of
the most prevalent substances in foods, medicines and other
consumer products, yet for approximately 1 in 30 individuals
around the world who are affected by gluten intolerance, even
an occasional encounter with gluten may make them ill. And
the long-term implications of the untreated disease, which
include a substantially enhanced risk of malignancies (both
cancer and lymphoma) of the small intestine and osteoporosis,
are far more serious than the disease itself.
What is Celiac
Celiac Sprue (a.k.a.
celiac disease, coeliac disease, or gluten intolerance) is
an hereditary disorder characterized by a sensitivity to the
toxic effects of gluten in the diet, leading to abnormal small-intestinal
structure, malabsorption, and intolerance to gluten, a component
of nutritionally important proteins found in common dietary
food grains such as wheat, rye and barley.
The disease commonly
presents in early childhood with severe symptoms including
chronic diarrhea, abdominal distension, and failure to thrive.
The general condition of these children is severely impaired.
In many patients, symptoms may not develop until later in
life when the disease presents with fatigue, diarrhea, and
weight loss due to malabsorption of nutrients and vitamins,
anemia and neurological symptoms.
This is a lifelong
disease, and if untreated, patients have a substantially enhanced
risk for the development of complications such as infertility,
osteoporosis, intestinal cancer and lymphoma. There is no
therapeutic option available to Celiac Sprue patients, the
only treatment being a lifelong adherence to a strict gluten-free
How Common Is
Although the disease
was considered uncommon until recently, the American Gastroenterological
Association's most recent technical review on Celiac Sprue
120, 1526-1540, 2001 Please Note that this Link goes to the
Full Text of this Landmark Article) summarizes the results
of several independent studies suggesting that the prevalence
of the disease may be as high as 1 in 200 people in most parts
of the world. Like other immune disorders such as Type 1 diabetes,
rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis, both genetic
and environmental factors play a role in the onset of Celiac
on Celiac Sprue
They have discovered
that a relatively short fragment of the gluten protein is
exceptionally toxic to Celiac Sprue patients. This gluten
fragment is unusually resistant to breakdown by digestive
enzymes in the intestine, where it remains intact to have
a destructive effect on the intestinal lining. Using this
information, they identified a bacterial enzyme (a peptidase)
that can rapidly degrade this and other related toxic fragments
will take several years of clinical trials before this enzyme
comes to market.
September 27, 2002;297(5590):2275-9