Northwestern Researchers Find New Treatment That May Reverse Celiac Disease

Jim Gudas
October 22, 2019 - 10:39 am

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- There's potentially good news for people with celiac disease.

Researchers at Northwestern University said they've achieved a major advancement in the treatment of celiac disease.

Northwestern claims it has completed a phase two trial of technology, which appears to induce immune tolerance to gluten in people with celiac disease.

NU researchers said the technology could eventually make it possible for celiac patients to tolerate gluten in their diets.

Northwestern claims after celiac patients were treated with the technology, they were able to eat gluten and experience far less inflammation. The results also show a trend toward protecting patients’ small intestine from gluten exposure.

According to Northwestern, the technology is a "biodegradable nanoparticle containing gluten that teaches the immune system the antigen (allergen) is safe. The nanoparticle acts like a Trojan horse, hiding the allergen in a friendly shell, to convince the immune system not to attack it."

Beyond celiac disease, the finding sets the stage for the technology to treat a host of other diseases and allergies including multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, peanut allergy, asthma and more.

“This is the first demonstration the technology works in patients,” said Stephen Miller, professor of microbiology and immunology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “We have also shown that we can encapsulate myelin into the nanoparticle to induce tolerance to that substance in multiple sclerosis models, or put a protein from pancreatic beta cells to induce tolerance to insulin in type 1 diabetes models.”

There currently is no treatment for celiac disease.

“Doctors can only prescribe gluten avoidance, which is not always effective and carries a heavy social and economic toll for celiac patients,” Miller said.

About 1 percent of the population has celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disease in which the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine.

The findings are being presented at a medical conference in Spain.