Elafin to treat Celiac Disease?

Some time ago I came across the article about Elafin Protein and its possibility to treat Celiac disease. It intrigued me, so after reading the article I did also a little bit of research. (For full article click here).

What is elafin? Elafin is a protein that in humans is encoded by the PI3 gene. It has been found to have utility in serving as a biomarker for graft versus host disease of the skin. It also plays a role in gut inflammation.


From some time already scientists were testing what effect may Elafin have on those with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, including those with Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.  It turns that this enzyme delivered via a genetically engineered bacterium, could calm down the gut. The approach — tested so far only on mice and pieces of inflamed human gut tissue in the lab — was reported in 2012 in a paper in Science Translational Medicine.

“Authors of this paper set out to try something different. They noted that among the many changes that occur in the gut with IBD, levels of a protein called elafin tend to fall. Elafin inhibits certain enzymes that contribute to inflammation. So, the scientists reasoned, what would happen if you supplied extra elafin to patients with IBD?

What happened? First of all, elafin was now steadily made in the guts of the mice. When IBD was induced in the mice, those fed the genetically modified bacteria were more resistant to the disease. The gut tissue wasn’t as thick, cell damage was lessened and there was reduced invasion of the gut by immune cells such as macrophages and neutrophils.”(from:http://articles.latimes.com/2012/nov/01/news/la-heb-engineered-bacteria-crohns-and-colitis-20121031)

While also testing the possible effect on those with Celiac Disease, scientists 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.

Similar like with previews studies, scientists proposed 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. 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 inflammatory reaction.

Does it mean that we are on the way to cure Celiac disease? Will there be pills to cure it or will we be able to find this protein in some natural sources? What are your thought about it?