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Dig Dis. 2015;33(2):277-81. doi: 10.1159/000369536. Epub 2015 Apr 22.

Novel treatments for celiac disease: glutenases and beyond.

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School of Medicine, University of Tampere, Tampere, Finland.


Currently, the only effective treatment for celiac disease is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet. However, gluten-free dieting is restrictive, difficult to maintain and nutritionally less than optimal. The improved knowledge on celiac disease pathogenesis has enabled researchers to suggest alternative strategies to treat the disorder. The drug development poses a challenge as any novel drug for celiac disease should be simultaneously effective and as safe as the gluten-free diet. The rationale behind enzyme supplementation therapy as a future treatment option for celiac patients lies in the fact that gluten is only poorly digested by gastrointestinal proteases. Due to incomplete degradation in the gastrointestinal tract, fairly long gluten peptides enter the small-intestinal lumen and come into contact with the mucosal epithelium, and in celiac disease patients this encounter launches deleterious downstream effects. Enzyme supplement therapy using either bacterial or fungal endopeptidases or proteases from germinating cereals has been proposed to promote complete digestion of prolamins and destroy disease-inducing gluten peptides. A major advantage of these glutenases is that they work in the lumen of the small intestine and do not themselves take part in the immunological cascade of events in the lamina propria, thus being unlikely to cause harmful side effects to the host. Studies to test this rationale, e.g. with Aspergillus niger prolyl endoprotease and a combination enzyme product ALV003, are already ongoing. The development of a novel medication for celiac disease is still in its early days, and thus the conventional dietary treatment will hold its place for the time being.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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