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Anti-Gluten Drug Quest Makes New Strides

To date, the only available treatment for celiac disease (CD) has been to follow a strict gluten-free diet. However, according to a December 2012 paper published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the discovery of a new enzyme could spell breadsticks for everyone.

Paper co-authors Justin Siegel, an assistant professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine at the University of California, Davis, and Ingrid Swanson Pultz, a microbiologist at University of Washington, reported that a group of undergraduates at UW discovered a naturally occurring enzyme - which when modified was able to break down more than 95 percent of a gluten peptide.

The thought now is that this modified enzyme, called KumaMax, could be CD's equavalent of a lactase pill, which allows some people with lactose intolerance to eat dairy products without the common digestive implications.  Here’s how it would work: certain enzymes in the stomach break gluten into smaller pieces, called peptides. It is these peptides that trigger the autoimmune response in celiac patients. Now if KumaMax could further obliterate these remaining offending peptides in the stomach, then those with CD could simply pop a pill and eat all the gluten containing foods they wanted at a sitting.

According to a National Public Radio segment, Siegel and Pultz are so confident in the test tube studies that they started a company called Proteus Biologics to try and bring a pill form of KumaMax to the market. But don’t start the oven just yet, before anyone will be able to try this out, both clinical and safety testing will need to be performed. So, until then, Schar makes a pretty darn good gluten free breadstick. 

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