Scientists have identified a protein fragment in many cereal grains that may cause the autoimmune disorder, Celiac Sprue, and an enzyme that may help treat the disorder. Celiac Sprue requires strict adherence to a gluten-free diet, and affects approximately one in 200 individuals, according to U.S. and Norwegian researchers. The team reports its findings in the journal Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Although Celiac Sprue is relatively common, scientists generally know little about its specific cause or how to treat it, according to study author Chaitan Khosla of Stanford University.
"When I do presentations about the disease, typically the response I get is, 'Who is Celiac Sprue?'" Khosla said. "This disease has been overlooked in a very serious way by the basic science, clinical, and pharmaceutical communities."
The disorder is a major burden for people who have it, according to Khosla. Gluten proteins, which occur naturally in wheat, rye, and barley, are used in many other foods, as certain forms of food starch, flavorings, or processing agents. For "celiacs," even small amounts of gluten can cause a variety of symptoms, many digestion-related. Over the long term, eating gluten can cause serious damage to their small intestines.
"If you are diagnosed with Celiac Sprue, typically the physician gives you a referral to a dietician, who gives you a book about the size of a New York City phone book, that lists all the things you can't eat. The bottom line is, if you go into a typical grocery store with that phone book, it will tell you that you can't buy 90 percent of the things in the store," Khosla said.
The main toxic components of gluten are a family of proteins called gliadins, which, like all dietary proteins, can be broken down into subunits calle
Contact: Lisa Onaga
American Association for the Advancement of Science