A clinical trial in its early stages, funded by Dr. Falk Pharma, is testing a promising new drug aimed at reducing intestinal damage caused by celiac disease.
The drug, known as ZED1227 works by targeting an intestinal enzyme known to contribute to celiac symptoms. The enzyme called TG2 (Transglutaminase 2) plays a key role in the autoimmune response caused by the disease.
For those with celiac disease, when gluten is consumed it results in an immune system attack on the lining of the small intestine. The symptoms range from diarrhea, abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss among others. Because of the autoimmune nature of the disease, people with celiac disease can sometimes lose weight, and experience effects of malnourishment such as anemia and thinning bones.
The only treatment at the moment is a strict diet that avoids not only gluten-forward products whose main ingredients contain things like wheat, rye, and barley, but also avoids products with even trace amounts of gluten. These trace amounts exist in many processed food staples, like pasta, cereal, sauces and soups.
This diet is understandably difficult to maintain over a lifetime, and comes with a huge practical, social, and psychological burden. Furthermore, around 30% of Celiac patients who maintain the strict of gluten-free diets still don’t find relief from their symptoms, according to one medical advisor to the Celiac Disease Foundation, Dr. Joseph Murray.
The ZED1227 study is therefore encouraging, as its results showed lessened intestinal damage in those taking the drug before consuming gluten. Whether symptoms will be reduced is to be determined din larger studies moving forward, particularly those focusing on the group of patients who have not been successful on a gluten free diet.
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