Researchers Pioneer Vaccine Allowing Celiac Disease Sufferers to Eat Gluten

Friday, 09 November 2018 - 2:09PM
Technology
Medical Tech
Friday, 09 November 2018 - 2:09PM
Researchers Pioneer Vaccine Allowing Celiac Disease Sufferers to Eat Gluten
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Composite from Pixabay
People with celiac disease can't approach cake with the same sort of devil-may-care attitude that a lactose intolerant person might show with an ice cream cone—even small amounts of gluten can end up causing diarrhea, headaches, and vomiting. Right now, most people with celiac have to trust that their nutrition labels (and favorite restaurants) aren't lying to them when it comes to food being gluten-free, but ImmusanT, a medical company specializing in autoimmune diseases, may have a better solution: a gluten vaccine.

Though the science behind the vaccine is different from those that deal with viruses, the operating principle is the same: by exposing celiac patients to small, concentrated amounts of gluten, they can build a tolerance to it. ImmusanT has found that the T cells that cause the negative symptoms of the disease (which cause a person's body to attack their own intestinal lining) are triggered by a relatively small number of peptide strands, which can be used to trigger those T cells in small, relatively harmless quantities. After a while, the body can learn to tolerate the presence of gluten proteins.

ImmusanT's vaccine should, in theory, be effective in treating the 90% of celiac sufferers who have the HLA-DQ2.5 variant of the disease, but developing a commercial version (and proving that it's safe) will mean passing through the current Phase 2 trials and eventually seeking FDA approval, which might take years of waiting. In the meantime, ImmusanT has already begun researching alternative vaccines for those with the HLA-DQ8 variation, who make up about 5% of celiac victims.

If you're wondering why FDA approval for new drugs takes so long, check out this Business Insider piece, which outlines the incredibly difficult steps new drugs have to go through before being approved for human use.
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