Good news for all you celiacs out there: A team of researchers from the University of Alberta have developed a new pill that might make it possible for gluten-intolerant folks to eat and digest gluten for short periods of time — essentially allowing them to enjoy a wide variety of foods and drinks that they would otherwise need to avoid.
To be clear, this is not a cure. The newly developed supplement doesn’t suddenly make gluten intolerance disappear. Instead, it uses a clever biochemical trick to offer temporary, as-needed immunity to glutenin and gliadin — the two components of gluten that people with celiac disease have difficulty digesting. The idea is that a person could take this pill just a few minutes before they chow down, and it would neutralize any gluten in the food they eat for the next couple hours.
Here’s how it supposedly works. The supplement, which is derived from the yolks of chicken eggs, is designed to dissipate into the user’s stomach and stick to any gluten molecules that it comes into contact with. This alters the gluten in such a way that the body doesn’t mistakenly identify the proteins as potential threats and begin to attack, which is typically what causes abdominal pains and damage to the small intestine.
“This supplement binds with gluten in the stomach and help to neutralize it, therefore providing defense to the small intestine, limiting the damage gliadin causes,” lead researcher Hoon Sunwoo said in a statement. “It is our hope that this supplement will improve the quality of life for those who have celiac disease and gluten intolerance.”
The pill isn’t quite ready for prime time quite yet, and will require further testing before its approved for human consumption, but early clinical trials look promising. The supplement has already proven safe and effective in mice, so the next phase is to prove it actually works in people, which Sunwoo hopes to find out next year when the next stage of trials is expected to commence.
Keep you fingers crossed and the magic pill might be on store shelves within a couple years.