Having to live with a condition that has no cure often leads to patients feeling hopeless and depressed about their current situation. Hence, it often worsens the onset of the disease and impact on their health due to a negative mind set. One of these diseases is celiac disease, a disorder that has been slowly gaining recognition due to the efforts placed by several individuals and organizations in raising awareness to the general public about this condition.
Quick overview of celiac disease
Celiac disease is a genetically-transmitted autoimmune disorder that is characterized by a harmful immune system reaction to gluten digestion, which often results in damage in the linings of the small intestine. According to Celiac Disease Foundation (CDF), this condition affects 1 in 100 people worldwide and is often left undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for other gastrointestinal disorders due to sharing similar symptoms. A cure is yet to be discovered for celiac disease, although patients may opt to avoid food products laden with gluten such as barley, wheat, and rye.
Despite its incurable status, recent funding and research projects for celiac disease have made significant findings that have enhanced and deepened the medical field's understanding of the disorder. These developments give a glimmer of hope to celiac disease patients and their loved ones by making it a possibility that someday they can be cured.
Celiac disease may be caused by a common virus
A recent study last April 2017 conducted by a group of researchers from the University of Chicago and University of Pittsburgh found a link between celiac disease and reovirus T1L, a common but generally harmless virus that infects humans. According to the study, a huge fraction of the human population carries genes that can progress into celiac disease but only a few actually develop it. Using mice that were genetically modified to be susceptible to celiac disease, the team exposed them to reovirus 1TL and fed them with gluten, resulting in an autoimmune reaction similar to celiac disease. In humans, it was found that celiac disease patients have more reovirus-specific antibodies as compared to non-patients, and this alone is a suggestion that the virus may be acting as a trigger for the development of celiac disease. With these findings, vaccinations against reovirus among children may be done as a preventive measure. Funding and research for celiac disease for this study was supported by the National Institute of Health.
Links between celiac disease and anorexia
A study from Sweden which was published in a journal named Pediatrics on April 3, 2017, pointed out that women with celiac disease were more likely to be also diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, an eating disorder that involves a self-restrictive attitude towards food. The diagnosis can happen before or after developing celiac disease. The former being more likely a misdiagnosis due to the similarity of symptoms between both medical conditions. Though the study did not give too much detail on how the link was discovered, medical professionals all over the world agree with these findings. Dr. Hillary Jericho, an assistant professor in University of Chicago's School of Medicine, said that the link was not surprising since celiac disease involves diet restrictions that some patients may have brought to the extremes out of fear of having a bodily reaction if they didn't exercise enough caution.
BL-7010 is a potential cure for the celiac disease that had been in development since 2014. BL-7010 is a polymer designed to have a high affinity with gliadins, a component in gluten that is responsible for triggering celiac disease whenever it is ingested by a celiac disease patient. This treatment will regulate the ingestion of gliadin, and therefore minimize its effect on the immune system. It was invented by Jean-Christophe Leroux and is being continually developed by BioLineRx Ltd.
ImmusanT, a private biotech company dedicated to restoring gluten tolerance among celiac disease patients, is currently developing Nexvax2, an Epitope-specific immunotherapy (ESIT) vaccine designed to protect those who suffer from celiac disease against the harmful effects of gluten exposure. According to the company, people with celiac disease possess a gene called HLA_DQ2.5t that is responsible for the autoimmune reactions against gluten proteins. As of February 22, 2017, ImmusanT announced that they have just completed phase one of trial doses and are seeing the second phase of trials within the year. Once Nexvax2 passes all the tests and becomes commercially available, celiac disease patients will be able to return to unrestricted diets without trouble.
A study published in Gastrojournal in 2015 entitled “Larazotide Acetate for Persistent Symptoms of Celiac Disease Despite a Gluten-Free Diet: A Randomized Controlled Trial” concluded that a 0.5 mg dose of larazotide acetate while maintaining a gluten-free diet significantly alleviated the symptoms of celiac disease much better than with a gluten-free diet alone. This can prove helpful for celiac disease patients who hope to maintain a gluten-free diet while managing their condition since it has been found that simply maintaining a diet without gluten does not guarantee full healing of the damaged small intestine.
Another potential treatment option celiac disease patients may see in the future is AMG 714, an anti-IL-15 monoclonal antibody for treating celiac disease. As of 2016, Celimmune, the biotech company developing AMG 714 has started phase two of its research in Finland where awareness and understanding of celiac disease is one of the highest in the world.
The studies mentioned above are just a few of the recent efforts made to bring patients closer to a cure for celiac disease. There are a couple of organizations who also providefunding and research for celiac disease, which is highly needed to keep the research works going.
Celiac Disease Foundation
Founded in 1990 by Elaine Monarch, this nonprofit organization seeks to uplift the quality of life for celiac disease patients through funding and research for celiac disease, information drives, and advocacy initiatives. A single significant contribution this organization has made to support research for celiac disease is through the launch of iCureCeliac. It is a database where celiac patients can share their experiences living with celiac disease, which has become a rich source of information for researchers worldwide.
Celiac Support Association
The Celiac Support Association, formerly the Celiac Sprue Association is another organization that promotes further research into the nature of celiac disease. Its primary goal is to increase awareness among the masses about the existence of the celiac disease.
Additional funding activities for celiac disease
In 2013, the American Gastroenterological Research Foundation and the Ferring Institute Award in Celiac Disease Research offered $120,000 for the funding and research of celiac disease.
Back in 2010, Shelia Cafferty, a celiac disease patient and her family donated $45 million to the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research. This donation alone was already enough to employ up to 200 doctors and researchers who not only dedicated themselves to find a cure for celiac disease but also for other autoimmune disorders.
The fight is still far from over for people with celiac disease. With more and more discoveries being made and more precise ways of diagnosis, the dream of a cure may not be too far away.