Progress reported in celiac disease vaccine search

Australian scientists recently reported successes in the search for a cure to celiac disease.

The results of human trials conducted in Melbourne suggest that a simple injection could help sufferers overcome the condition and that the techniques used to develop the vaccine could be applied to other autoimmune diseases, such as type 1 diabetes, according

Celiac disease creates intolerance in the body for gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. When foods containing gluten are ingested, the body produces antibodies that attack its own tissue.

Dr. Bob Anderson of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute’s immunology department has been working for more than a decade to understand how gluten can trigger such a response in those with celiac disease. Anderson said he had identified three peptides in gluten as triggers that became keys to creating a vaccine, reports.

Thirty-four people with celiac disease took part in initial human trials. Participants were given varying strengths of the drug.

"It’s a nail-biting stage where you’re wondering, ‘Is it safe, is it working as we expect?’" Anderson said, according to "But it was well tolerated in the low-dose group and when we got to the high-dose group the [patients’] reaction was almost identical to their reaction to gluten."

From the results, it appears that the correct toxins had been included in the vaccine and that researchers can now prepare for the second phase of human trials, which can help determine dosage levels and treatment timelines.

Anderson, who is working on the vaccine with the U.S. biotech firm ImmunsanT, said that the new trials could take place within a year.

‘We hope to demonstrate a dramatic reduction in the body’s rejection of dietary gluten so patients can resume a normal diet and return to good health,’’ Anderson said, reports.