Dr. Alberto Caminero, a postdoctoral fellow in the Verdu lab, has received new funding from the Canadian Celiac Association for research on SPECIFIC PROBIOTIC-BASED STRATEGY FOR GLUTEN DETOXIFICATION.

Celiac disease (CD) is one of the most common food-sensitive disorders affecting approximately 1:100 people worldwide. Gluten proteins are unusually resistant to breakdown by digestive juices (digestive enzymes called proteases) and, as a result, poorly digested gluten causes inflammation and destruction of the intestinal lining during CD.

Although certain genes (HLA-DQ2 and DQ8) are necessary to develop CD, only few individuals with the genetic predisposition will develop it, suggesting that other factors are also involved in the promotion of the disease. Recent studies have implicated gut bacteria in CD risk, however, the mechanisms behind this association are unknown. Dr. Caminero’s research proposes a role for intestinal bacteria, along with human digestive enzymes in gluten digestion. He states:

“We have previously identified gut bacteria that can degrade gluten more efficiently than human digestive enzymes in a Petri dish. Our preliminary data support that some gut bacteria are more efficient to break down gluten than others, and thus we propose that the balance of gut bacteria present in persons with genetic risk could modify the odds of developing CD”.

The funded research proposes to characterize in detail the end products of gluten digestion by specific gut bacteria and the immune responses they induce in humans with CD and in a mouse model of CD. An important aim of this research is to establish a specific community of bacteria from the duodenum of healthy people that efficiently breaks down gluten in the small intestine, toward the eventual development of a specific probiotic supplement with proven gluten detoxification properties that can be administered safely to humans. This approach will have an advantage over the current enzymatic therapy, in that bacteria will be of human origin and will adapt to survive and produce the desired effect naturally within the gut environment.