Could antibodies found in chicken eggs hold promise for treating celiac disease? University of Alberta researcher Hoon Sunwoo thinks so.
Sunwoo says a new supplement that he and a colleague are developing holds out hope for treating the symptoms of celiac disease via antibodies in egg yolks that bind with gluten “to neutralize it.”
While a trial has yet to prove the pill’s effectiveness, the university suggests its aim is to allow at least some gluten in celiac patients’ diets.
“The product intercepts gluten before it can act on the sensitive part of the gut in people with celiac disease,” says Sunwoo, an associate professor in the university’s Faculty of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, who began working on the treatment after seeing his friend’s family struggle to manage the disease.
Celiac disease – in which the absorptive surface of a patient’s small intestine is damaged by the protein in gluten, making it difficult for the body to take in nutrients – has no known cure, and is currently treated solely with a gluten-free diet.
Sunwoo notes that this pill would be a treatment, not a panacea. “We are not presenting a potential cure for this disease or for gluten sensitivity,” he says.
At the same time, U.S. researchers are getting closer to the first pharmaceutical support for the gluten-free diet. The emerging drug, known as larazotide acetate, works by making the gut less permeable so that gluten particles cannot pass through to trigger inflammation and symptoms.
Mayo Clinic research suggests that up to 70 percent of celiac patients continue to be exposed to gluten while on a gluten-free diet, so such an aid could be life-changing.
A phase II study of larazotide acetate, published in the journal Gastroenterology in June, involved 342 adult celiac patients. Those not in the control group took one of three dose levels of the drug, three times per day, for at least a year while on a gluten-free diet. A good portion of the 86 adults taking the 0.5-milligram dose experienced either fewer days with symptoms or milder symptoms.
The drug is expected to launch in 2018.
–with files from Ishani Nath
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