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Separating wheat from chaff in celiac disease

Three protein fragments may trigger immune reactions in intestinal ailment

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1:45pm, July 21, 2010

Three protein fragments are looking like the guilty parties in celiac disease, an intestinal ailment that affects as many as one in 133 people in the United States. These partial proteins, or peptides, are the part of gluten in wheat, rye and barley that triggers the immune systems of celiac patients, damaging the small intestine. An Australian research team reports the new findings in the July 21 Science Translational Medicine.

Pinpointing these peptides has opened the way for development of a therapeutic vaccine that might help celiac patients tolerate these foods. The research team is pursuing that line of work now, led by study coauthor Robert Anderson, a gastroenterologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research in Parkville, Australia.

As it is, celiac patients deal with their condition by avoiding wheat, rye and barley.

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