Advances made during recent clinical trials mean that those suffering from celiac disease may soon be able to reintroduce gluten back into their diet. This breakthrough is down to a progressive new treatment that makes innovative use of nanotechnology.

Developed by a team of researchers at Northwestern University, the treatment deploys a biodegradable nanoparticle with a gluten core. By building a shell around the gluten compound (gliadin) the Northwestern team could train the immune system to accept the compound into the body. During the phase-2 trial, patients that received the treatment demonstrated a significantly reduced autoimmune response versus patients that received a placebo.

As well as treating celiac disease the technology could be applied to treat a multitude of other autoimmune diseases and allergies. “We have also shown that we can encapsulate myelin into the nanoparticle to induce tolerance to that substance in multiple sclerosis models or put a protein from pancreatic beta cells to induce tolerance to insulin in type 1 diabetes models,” added Miller.

Acting as a kind of Trojan Horse, the shell of the nanotechnology protects the gluten core from the body’s immune system and instead treats it as non-hostile and safe. Once in the blood-stream the nanoparticle is eventually consumed by a macrophage, referred to as a ‘vacuum-cleaner cell.’

Image Credit:  Northwestern University

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