A natural protein, Elafin, against gluten intolerance?

April 8, 2014

Scientists from INRA and INSERM (France) in collaboration with scientists from McMaster University (Canada) and the Ecole polytechnique fédérale of Zurich (Switzerland) have shown that Elafin, a human protein, plays a key role against the inflammatory reaction typical of celiac disease (gluten intolerance). They have also developed a probiotic bacterium able to deliver Elafin in the gut of mice. This innovation, published online in the American Journal of Gastroenterology on 8 April 2014, paves the way to new strategies to treat gluten intolerance.

Celiac disease is an auto-immune pathology that occurs in individuals genetically predisposed to gluten intolerance. Affected people do not harbor the enzymes required to degrade gluten during digestion. Inflammatory reactions are induced by this abnormal digestion which can lead to the destruction of the gut barrier that is essential for nutrients absorption. Celiac disease causes chronic abdominal pain (diarrhea, cramps…) and predisposes to certain cancers (small intestine, lymphoma). Its prevalence is estimated between 1/500 and 1/300; no currently exist and the only solution is a lifelong gluten-free diet.

Scientists from the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM), along with Canadian and Swiss colleagues, have shown that Elafin, a protein with anti-inflammatory properties, is less abundant in patients with than in healthy people. They identified that Elafin is capable of preventing the destruction of the gut barrier during inflammation, and that Elafin is able to interact with enzymes responsible for the abnormal breakdown of gluten: transglutaminase-2. Consequently, Elafin reduces gluten toxicity.

These observations led the scientists to propose a way to deliver the missing Elafin in celiac patients with help of a harmless bacterium that is often present in food: a lactic bacterium strain (Lactococcus lactis), that scientists transformed in order to express Elafin. The use of this strain, developed by the same teams from INRA and INSERM, enables a targeted and local production of Elafin, and represents a recent and innovative strategy. The first pre-clinical results pave the way to new therapies for Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD (no curative treatment exist).

In the present study, the scientists have administered this bacterium to gluten intolerant mice. They showed that the Elafin delivered by the probiotic decreases significantly the .

This strategy, patented by INRA in May 2013, opens promising prospects to treat celiac disease and in general. The next step will consist in defining the mechanisms underlying the positive effects of elafin in celiac disease, and in the identification of bacteria that naturally produce proteins with anti-inflammatory properties similar to elafin.

Explore further: Research finding could lead to new therapies for patients with gluten intolerance

More information: Heather J. Galipeau, Michelle Wiepjes, Jean-Paul Motta, Jessica D. Schulz, Jennifer Jury, Jane M. Natividad, Ines Pinto-Sanchez, Daniel Sinclair, Perrine Rousset, Rebeca Martin-Rosique, Luis Bermudez-Humaran, Jean Christophe Leroux, Joseph Murray, Edgardo Smecuol, Julio C. Bai, Nathalie Vergnolle, Philippe Langella and Elena F. Verdu. "Novel Role of the Serine Protease Inhibitor Elafin in Gluten-Related Disorders." American Journal of Gastroenterology, 8 April 2014. DOI: 10.1038/ajg.2014.48

Related Stories

Research finding could lead to new therapies for patients with gluten intolerance

April 1, 2014
Researchers at McMaster University have discovered a key molecule that could lead to new therapies for people with celiac disease, an often painful and currently untreatable autoimmune disorder.

Celiac disease linked to increased risk of coronary artery disease

March 29, 2014
People with celiac disease may have a near two-fold increased risk of coronary artery disease compared with the general population, according to research to be presented at the American College of Cardiology's 63rd Annual ...

FDA defining what "gluten free" means on packages

August 2, 2013
Consumers are going to know exactly what they're getting when they buy foods labeled "gluten free."

Genetically engineered bacteria could help in Crohn's and colitis

November 2, 2012
(Medical Xpress)—A new study in mice has shown that genetically engineered bacteria can protect against inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which includes a host of conditions including ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease.

Quinoa may be safe grain for people with celiac disease

January 21, 2014
(HealthDay)—The grain quinoa seems safe for people with celiac disease, a new British study suggests.

Recommended for you

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.