Toxic trio identified as the basis of celiac disease

Jul 21, 2010
Professor Bob Anderson from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Australia, has identified the three protein fragments that make gluten -- the main protein in wheat, rye and barley -- toxic to people with celiac disease. His discovery opens the way for a new generation of diagnostics, treatments, prevention strategies and food tests for people with celiac disease. Credit: Czesia Markiewicz, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

Walter and Eliza Hall Institute scientists have identified the three protein fragments that make gluten - the main protein in wheat, rye and barley - toxic to people with coeliac disease.

Their discovery opens the way for a new generation of diagnostics, treatments, prevention strategies and food tests for the millions of people worldwide with coeliac disease.

When people with coeliac disease eat products containing their body's immune response is switched on and the lining of the small intestine is damaged, hampering their ability to absorb nutrients. The disease is currently treated by permanently removing gluten from the patient's diet.

Dr Bob Anderson, head of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute's coeliac disease research laboratory, said it had been 60 years since gluten was discovered to be the environmental cause of coeliac disease.

"In the years since, the holy grail in coeliac disease research has been to identify the toxic peptide components of gluten; and that's what we've done," Dr Anderson said.

The research, done in collaboration with Dr Jason Tye-Din, Dr James Dromey, Dr Stuart Mannering, Dr Jessica Stewart and Dr Tim Beissbarth from the institute as well as Professor Jamie Rossjohn at Monash University and Professor Jim McCluskey at the University of Melbourne, is published in today's issue of the international journal Science Translational Medicine.

The study was started by Professor Anderson nine years ago and has involved researchers in Australia and the UK as well as more than 200 coeliac disease patients.

The patients, recruited through the Coeliac Society of Victoria and the Coeliac Clinic at John Radcliffe Hospital, UK, ate bread, rye muffins or boiled barley. Six days later, blood samples were taken to measure the strength of the patients' immune responses to 2700 different gluten fragments. The responses identified 90 fragments as causing some level of , but three gluten fragments (peptides) were revealed as being particularly toxic.

"These three components account for the majority of the immune response to gluten that is observed in people with coeliac disease," Dr Anderson said.

This knowledge has already been used by Melbourne-based biotech company, Nexpep Pty Ltd, to develop a 'peptide-based' immunotherapy that aims to desensitise people with coeliac disease to the toxic effects of gluten. Nexpep's Phase 1 trials of the therapy were completed in June and final results are expected in coming months.

The immunotherapy works by exposing people with coeliac disease to small amounts of the three toxic peptides and is based upon the same principles as desensitisation for allergies.

Dr Anderson said although coeliac disease could be managed with a gluten-free diet, compliance with the diet is often challenging and nearly half the people on the diet still have residual damage to their . "Consequently, the immunotherapy and three other drugs are under development to help people with coeliac disease."

Explore further: US orders farms to report pig virus infections

Provided by Walter and Eliza Hall Institute

4.8 /5 (5 votes)

Related Stories

Vaccine trial flags challenge to celiac disease

Apr 03, 2009

An effective clinical treatment for coeliac disease (or gluten intolerance) is the ultimate objective of WEHI clinician scientist, Dr Bob Anderson. This month will see the beginning of a Phase 1 clinical trial for an experimental ...

Pinpointing immune system disturbances in celiac disease

Feb 28, 2010

New research has identified four aspects of immune system disturbance which lead to the development of coeliac disease. Nearly 40 different inherited risk factors which predispose to the disease have now been identified. ...

Recommended for you

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

8 hours ago

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

US orders farms to report pig virus infections

Apr 18, 2014

The U.S. government is starting a new program to help monitor and possibly control the spread of a virus that has killed millions of pigs since showing up in the country last year.

Foreigner dies of MERS in Saudi

Apr 18, 2014

A foreigner has died after she contracted MERS in the Saudi capital, the health ministry said on announced Friday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 73.

Vietnam battles fatal measles outbreak

Apr 18, 2014

Vietnam is scrambling to contain a deadly outbreak of measles that has killed more than 100 people, mostly young children, and infected thousands more this year, the government said Friday.

New clues on tissue scarring in scleroderma

Apr 18, 2014

A discovery by Northwestern Medicine scientists could lead to potential new treatments for breaking the cycle of tissue scarring in people with scleroderma.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.