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Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2012 Dec;12(12):1589-600. doi: 10.1517/14712598.2012.721766. Epub 2012 Aug 28.

Recent advances in the development of new treatments for celiac disease.

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  • 1University of Tampere, Tampere University Hospital, Pediatric Research Centre, Tampere, Finland.



Celiac disease is a common autoimmune condition induced by dietary gluten in genetically susceptible individuals. So far, the only available treatment for the disorder is a lifelong strict gluten-free diet, because of which small intestinal histological changes recover and symptoms disappear. However, gluten-free dieting is restrictive, and nutritionally less than optimal, and gluten is difficult to avoid.


With improving insight into the pathogenesis of celiac disease, several possible drug targets have been suggested. The new strategies include degradation of gluten intraluminally, reduction of mucosal permeability, inhibition of the transglutaminase 2 enzyme, blocking antigen presentation by HLA-DQ2 or HLA-DQ8, modulation of the immune responses of many cytokines, and vaccination.


Non-dietary treatment options are warranted either as adjunctive therapy together with dieting or to replace the gluten-free diet. The key question is whether the envisaged novel drug is able to prevent gluten-induced small intestinal mucosal injury as efficiently as a strict gluten-free diet, alleviating symptoms and signs of the disease. Furthermore, the gluten dose that can be detoxified, if at all, must be established. The new drug should also be as safe as dietary treatment. Several novel treatment options are under development.

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