ImmusanT, a biotech company working to develop treatment and a set of diagnostic tools to help manage patients with Celiac disease (CD) recently announced new research involving advancement towards a possible vaccine. The company’s treatment approach involves creating a vaccine that is based on the same principles used for traditional allergy therapy: reprogramming the immune system to tolerate gluten.
ImmusanT's therapy would start by injecting a tiny amount of the allergen (what causes the allergic reaction) in such a small dose that the immune system won’t respond with an allergic reaction. Gradually the dose would be increased until a patient's immune system had been essentially re-trained to tolerate the allergen.
The rub has always been that for many diseases and allergies the difficult part was identifying the specific allergens responsible causing for the allergic reaction. However, the scientists at ImmusanT were able to pinpoint the specific components (called peptides) of gluten that account for a majority of the immune system’s response to gluten in most celiac patients. With that information they were able to use tiny amounts of these peptides to develop a vaccine for CD. The vaccine, called NexVax2, is currently in clinical trials in the US, Australia and New Zealand in order to test its safety and stability. So stay tuned, science seems to be on the cutting edge of finding a way to make life easier for those with celiac!