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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid