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New Therapies for Celiac Disease Identified

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Do you have intolerance to foods containing gluten such as wheat, barley, rye and any foods which are made from these grains? If so, then you may have celiac disease. Celiac disease is said to be an autoimmune disease with no exact treatment. However, new research is currently ongoing to identify new targets for treatment of Celiac disease.

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that affects the intestines. People affected with this disorder often develop inflammation when they are exposed to gluten in the diet. The transmission of this disease is thought to have a familial and genetic component. The digestive system may be affected, causing nausea, vomiting, abdominal discomfort and loose bowel movement. There are also other systems which may occur. Inflammation of the intestines can make it difficult to absorb nutrients from food, thus paving way for other diseases.

As an autoimmune disease, celiac disease can cause one to develop antibodies against gluten in the diet. Gluten is a type of protein found on foodstuffs such as rye, wheat and barley. If people with celiac disease are exposed to gluten in the diet, gluten changes into a chemical by way of an enzyme called transglutaminase. This resulting chemical can cause an immune response which later on leads to inflammation in the lining of the small intestine. This inflammation can destroy and blunt the villi that make up lining of the intestines, thus preventing the absorption of nutrients from the diet. The malabsorption can cause our health to deteriorate since vitamins, minerals and other nutrients are not properly absorbed into the body. The organs that may suffer the most damage may include the liver, the brain and the bones because they need nutrients to function optimally.

There are people who are more prone to celiac disease. These people are those who have a family history of celiac disease, those who have type 1 diabetes, those who have autoimmune thyroid disease, those who have microscopic colitis and those with Sjögren’s syndrome. After exposure to gluten-containing foods, these people may develop signs and symptoms of celiac disease such as diarrhea and weight loss because of malabsorption; they may also have weakness and fatigue due to chronic malabsorption of vitamins and minerals or anemia. Other symptoms include headache, fatigue, joint pains, numbness and tingling, skin rashes, osteoporosis, abdominal pain and heartburn. Children and infants with celiac disease may present with signs and symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, failure to thrive, weight loss and developmental delays. Other medical problems may include miscarriage and infertility.

It may take several months or even years before celiac disease may even be diagnosed. This is because of the nonspecific symptoms of celiac disease. Recurrent abdominal pain, unexplained joint pains and chronic anemia may prompt the doctor to look for this medical problem. Once the diagnosis is done through history and physical examination, the doctor may order blood tests for immunoglobulin A anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody (IgA TTG) or may do endoscopy and biopsy of the lining of the duodenum.

New Drug Targets for Celiac Disease

Recently, researchers from McMaster University have discovered a key molecule which may lead to new therapies for celiac disease. This molecule, called elafin, is present in the intestines of healthy individuals yet is significantly decreased in patients with celiac disease. Their findings were published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. Elafin was found to interact with the transglutaminase 2 enzyme to decrease the enzymatic action that increases the toxicity of peptides from gluten. Elafin was found out to protect the intestinal lining of the intestines which is often damaged by gluten. The researchers view the possibility that elafin when given to patients with celiac disease can be a new adjuvant therapy to a gluten-free diet. This therapy may protect patients from celiac disease.

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