New hope for children with coeliac disease

New hope for children with coeliac disease

Illuminate newsletter, December
December 2015

Dr Jason Tye-Din and Dr Melinda Hardy
Coeliac disease researchers Dr Jason Tye-Din (left)
and Dr Melinda Hardy

New research has overturned a previously held theory about coeliac disease, showing childhood coeliac disease mirrors the condition in adults.

The study, led by Dr Jason Tye-Din and Dr Melinda Hardy from the institute, found that children with coeliac disease were reacting against the same key toxic proteins as adults.

One-therapy wonder for coeliac patients of all ages

The research, in collaboration with the Royal Children’s Hospital and international colleagues, confirms that new treatments and diagnostics in development should be suitable for all age groups.

One potential new treatment, Nexvax2®, will soon enter phase 2 clinical trials. It is an immunotherapy that aims to teach the immune system to tolerate gluten, allowing patients to reintroduce gluten to their diets. Nexvax2® is being developed by the US biotechnology company ImmusanT Inc. and is based on research from the institute.

Re-introducing wheat into the diet

Dr Tye-Din said more than 40 children aged between three and 18 years of age were tested to see how their immune systems reacted when gluten was reintroduced into their diet. "This is the first time coeliac disease in children has been studied this way and to this level of detail," he said.

“We asked the children to eat wheat bread for three days, and then studied the immune response that appeared in their bloodstream,” Dr Tye-Din said. 

"This is the first time coeliac disease in children has been studied this way and to this level of detail."

“Contrary to the prevailing theory we found that children reacted to the same peptides of gluten that we had identified as toxic in adults with coeliac disease. This important finding has major implications for the relevance of new diagnostic tests and treatments under development for people with coeliac disease,” he said.

Study reaches new level of detail 

“In contrast to earlier studies, this is the first time coeliac disease in children has been studied this way and to this level of detail,” Dr Tye-Din said. “There is a real need for better diagnosis and treatment of coeliac disease for all ages.”  

Tom McLeod, President of Coeliac Australia, said a diagnosis of coeliac disease could be particularly challenging for children and their families. “This study gives us hope that new treatments under development for adults with coeliac disease will also benefit children,” he said.

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