News / Health

Protein May Help People with Celiac Disease

FILE -  Preparation of gluten-free dough at Pure Knead bakery in Decatur, Georgia.
FILE - Preparation of gluten-free dough at Pure Knead bakery in Decatur, Georgia.
Jessica Berman
A molecule found in healthy people may help those with celiac disease.  The newly identified molecule, a protein called elafin, tames an enzyme that plays a role in inflammation of the small bowel caused by eating certain grains.  

An estimated one in 100 people suffers from celiac disease.  It is marked by inflammation in the small intestine triggered when they eat a hard-to-digest protein called gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye and most cereals.  The autoimmune disorder causes abdominal pain, bloating, malnutrition and anemia, and increases the risk of cancer.  

Millions more individuals are gluten sensitive.  That is, they test negative for celiac disease but their digestive enzymes cannot break down gluten, and that triggers bouts of abdominal cramps, pain and diarrhea.

Constant exposure to gluten causes the lining of the intestine to become thin.  The only treatment for celiac disease is extremely difficult, it's life-long avoidance of bread, pasta and foods containing gluten so the bowel can heal.  

But there may soon be a way to eliminate the gastrointestinal distress.

Research scientist Elena Verdu of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, says experts already knew that patients with another digestive disorder called inflammatory bowel disease have abnormally low levels of the protein elafin.

“And therefore we set to examine the levels of elafin in biopsies from patients with celiac disease and in patients that were one year on a gluten-free diet and also in patients without celiac disease.  And we discovered that patients with celiac disease had decreased levels of elafin in the upper gut," said Verdu.
 
In healthy individuals, elafin interacts with an enzyme called transglutaminase 2, preventing the inflammatory reaction experienced by celiac and gluten sensitive people.

McMaster researchers, in collaboration with scientists at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, did experiments with non-celiac, gluten sensitive mice.  As described in The American Journal of Gastroenterology, they gave the rodents a helpful food bacterium called Lactococcus lactis, genetically engineered to produce elafin in the gut.  

“So when these mice were given the Lactococcus lactis with the elafin and they were challenged with gluten, they did not develop these abnormalities.  So, they did not have the leaky barrier [gut], they did not have the inflammation, they did not have any of these alternations.  They were as the normal mice that were not given gluten," said Verdu.

Vendu says an elafin-containing probiotic could add flexibility to a gluten-free diet, but to be protective, it would have to be taken as a dietary supplement before each meal.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countriesi
X
December 16, 2014 2:14 PM
Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.
Video

Video Indonesian Province to Expand Sharia Law

Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population and a legal system based on Dutch civil law and Indonesian government regulations. But in a 2001 compromise with separatists, Aceh province in Sumatra island’s north was allowed to implement Sharia law. Since then, religious justice has become increasingly strict. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh.
Video

Video Some Russian Businesses Thrive in Poor Economy

Capital flight, the fall in oil prices and Western sanctions are pushing Russia's staggering economy into recession. But not companies are suffering. The ruble’s drop in value has benefited exporters as well as businesses targeting increasingly frugal customers. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.

All About America

AppleAndroid