Latest Research Into A Vaccine For Coeliac Disease Announced At Conference
Coeliac disease is a life-long autoimmune disease, which is triggered by eating gluten, a type of protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Untreated it can lead to serious ill health and be life-threatening. There is currently no cure for the condition; the only treatment is life-long adherence to a strict gluten-free diet.
However, research by Dr Bob Anderson from the Autoimmunity and Transplantation Division of The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Australia has identified the toxic elements of gluten creating the potential for a vaccine therapy to suppress or prevent gluten toxicity. The research indicates that there are only a few dominant peptides in the gluten protein that trigger the autoimmune response in people with coeliac disease which makes the creation of a vaccine easier.
"We have developed a peptide-based therapeutic vaccine based on the dominant problem T-cell epitopes of gluten. The "vaccine" has the potential to treat at about 80% of people with the disease and having the appropriate genetic background. In common with traditional desensitization therapy for allergy, peptide-based therapeutic vaccines administered in many small doses over a course of injections could induce immune tolerance not only to the selected gluten fragments but also suppress the toxicity of other toxic gluten components," explained Dr Anderson. Dr Anderson is joint founder and CEO of Nexpep Pty Ltd, the company developing the coeliac vaccine in Australia. Dr Anderson said, "Nexpep is currently raising capital for a clinical trial program for a peptide-based therapeutic vaccine and intends to commence a Phase 1 clinical trial in the first half of 2009."
Further research findings will be provided at the conference by Professor David Van Heel who will outline research by his team identifying a new genetic risk factor for coeliac disease and following continued research, discovered an additional seven gene regions implicated in causing the condition. That of the nine coeliac gene regions now known, four of these are also predisposing factors for type 1 diabetes. Their research sheds light not only on the nature of coeliac disease, but on the common origins of both diseases.
Other speakers at the conference will be highlighting advancements in testing of gluten in food, the nutritional content of a gluten-free diet and the need for point of care testing in order to help increase the number of people diagnosed.
- For people with coeliac disease, eating gluten damages the lining of the gut, which prevents normal digestion and absorption of food. If a gluten-free diet is not followed, the disease can ultimately lead to malnutrition, osteoporosis, bowel cancer and also cause infertility problems.
- 1 in 100 people in the UK has coeliac disease. However, research has showed that only 12.5% of those have been diagnosed equating to over half a million people currently undiagnosed in the UK.
- Symptoms of coeliac disease can include diarrhoea, but occasionally constipation, tiredness, anaemia, mouth ulcers, recurrent miscarriages, weight loss (but not in all cases), skin problems, depression, joint or bone pain, and nerve problems. Sometimes the symptoms can mimic irritable bowel syndrome that is bloating, abdominal pain and constipation. The only treatment is the life-long avoidance of ingestion of gluten.
- Due to the wide variety of the symptoms of the disease, not only do patients suffer from a reduced quality of life during the years prior to diagnosis, but also they can be unnecessarily hospitalised and quite often completely misdiagnosed, and treated with costly drugs.
- Gluten is a protein found in wheat (including spelt), rye and barley; beer; obvious sources of gluten include breads, pastas, flours, cereals, cakes and biscuits. It is also often used as an ingredient in many favourite foods such as fish fingers, sausages, gravies, sauces and soy sauce. People with coeliac disease can also be sensitive to oats.
- The symptoms of coeliac disease range from mild to severe and can vary between individuals. Not everyone with coeliac disease experiences gut-related symptoms; any area of the body can be affected.