Currently, there is no cure. The only way to manage Celiac Disease is to be on a completely gluten free diet. While it is difficult to follow, it is becoming easier as more people become aware of the disease and its prevalence. More and more substitute options are available as well as more people are aware of the necessity for those with Celiac Disease to have a completely gluten free diet (i.e. cross contamination in restaurants).
On a happier note, a clinical trial of a vaccine is underway in Australia. Phase 1 began in April of 2009. They are hoping to have Phase 1 completed by early 2010 and from there, move on to Phase 2.
Important Update (as of 5/15/10):
I attended the Celiac Disease Foundation Conference on May 15, 2010. Dr. Daniel C. Adelman from Alvine Pharmaceuticals, Inc was one of the speakers. He talked about pharmaceutical research. As of now, there is nothing available. I have heard of something that people take to help digest gluten, but as far as I know, it is a supplement and unregulated. Currently, there are three companies, including Alvine that are researching possible medications. They are all in the experimental stage. Not available unless you are part of a study.
One of the companies, Nexpep, is working on a drug, Nexvax2, to induce tolerance to gluten. They are currently in the Phase 1 clinical trials. Their experiments on mice showed promise. Examinations showed lessened inflammation. Here is where I feel hypocritical. (Oh heck! I know I am. Does that make it any better? I guess not.) He used some nice term, like, sacrificed or something, to mean killed and dissected. I know it’s part of pharmaceutical testing, but I wish it didn’t have to be.
OK. Back to the good parts. “Nexpep has completed preclinical development of Nexvax2 and has commenced clinical trials to test the effects of Nexvax2 in patients with coeliac disease.” – from Nexpep website. Click on quote to read full report.
Alba is the next company he talked about. The drug works on ‘tightening up the junctions.” To me, it sounded like he meant thickening up the intestines, but I know it is much more complicated than that. (Maybe it means that our intestines can do little exercises to get all toned. Small intestine bench presses anyone?) They are currently in the Phase 2B of the clinical trials of Larazotide (Makes me think of laundry soap or the name of someone’s boat.) The good news is that it seemed to “lower the antibody response.” The bad news is that as far as having as great of an effect as they were wanting, it was no better than a placebo. Rats!
The last one that was talked about was from Alvine. I believe, right now, it is just called ALV003. Fancy, huh? Their drug works on helping to digest the gluten. This drug will not replace a gluten free diet, but it will work in conjunction with it for those times when we might be “glutened.” I think we all know what that feels like. Now here is where the really big words come into play, but I think I get it, so I hope I explain it right. The goal is to make the gluten no longer immunostimulatory. Whew! How it works is, lets say you get a little glutened at a restaurant because flour is flying in the kitchen and gets on your grilled chicken. No one notices or thinks it matters because they aren’t in your shoes. Normally, you would eat it, and not know about it until you got sick later. Well, if you take this when you go out, just-in-case, it “cleaves” the amino acid chains of the small amount of gluten into chains that are less than nine aminos. Amino chains smaller than nine aminos do not cause a reaction in those with Celiac Disease. Were not talking parts per million, here. Were talking molecules.
So the studies so far have shown that it is stable in the stomach. (Your stomach acid won’t destroy it and make it useless.) It will degrade the gluten in the stomach to the point of no longer being immunogenic. (Another big word that means less than nine aminos in the amino chain.) And they are currently enrolling people in Phase 2. Yippee! Hope! Hope! Hope!