Ever Heard of Elafin?
If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, keep a little molecule called elafin on your radar. Researchers from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, have discovered that elafin, which is normally present in the intestines of healthy individuals, is significantly decreased in those with celiac disease, even after treatment with the gluten-free diet. What’s more, researchers found elafin can interact with a key celiac enzyme, transglutaminase 2, in a way that can curb the toxicity of gluten proteins. In studies with mice, the McMaster team showed that administering the elafin molecule (packaged in a probiotic) protected the intestinal lining that is damaged by gluten.
Findings raise the possibility of an elafin-based treatment for celiac. As with other celiac treatments under development, an elafin-based therapy would likely target gluten cross contamination—not replace the gluten-free diet. However, cross contamination remains a very challenging issue, despite more and more restaurants offering gluten-free menus. Indeed, the risk of cross contamination often keeps me from enjoying a meal outside my own kitchen. (Yep, I have celiac disease.)
Although other potential celiac treatments, namely ALV003 and AT-1001, are much farther along in clinical development, I like to stack the deck when it comes to making life with celiac a little easier. That’s why I like this new elafin discovery. Researchers also say elafin could possibly have a role in managing non-celiac gluten sensitivity and other gastrointestinal disorders, like irritable bowel syndrome, that can be exacerbated by wheat or gluten ingestion. Stay tuned!
To read the abstract of this study, go to http://www.nature.com/ajg/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ajg201448a.html