Is the “pill” on the horizon for combating celiac disease?
One of the most promising areas of research is looking into the therapeutic use of the “zonulin” inhibitor. Zonulin is a protein that is released by the intestinal mucosa for different kinds of irritation and regulates its permeability. The level of zonulin is increased in the acute phase of celiac disease. It turns out that an increased zonulin level is a decisive factor in the development of autoimmune diseases such as celiac disease.
The intestinal permeability, increased with zonulin, can be prevented by a protein fragment called inhibitor peptide that reaches the bowel after being taken orally and inhibits the zonulin receptor. The result is that the intestinal barrier is preserved. Gluten peptide does not enter (or only enters with difficulty through the intestinal mucosa) the connective tissue layer in which the immune reaction takes place.
It is still uncertain as to whether the “pill” can be created for this as research is still at a very early stage. Results to date are encouraging however. The assumption is that this kind of medicine would always be regarded as a complement to gluten-free dieting and would not mean its replacement.
Genetic engineering also represents a glimmer of hope. The aim is to create corn types such as wheat and spelt that are free from gluten. But new solutions for those affected by celiac disease are still a long way off with genetic engineering.
A life-long, strict gluten-free diet will continue to be the only effective therapy for those affected.