You probably know someone with Celiac disease, as it affects approximately one out of every 250 people, who “”http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/#1">cannot tolerate a protein called gluten, found in wheat, rye, and barley." (Others estimate that the prevalence of this disease is even higher, as it may be underdiagnosed in some populations.)
There’s no cure for this disease, so people with Celiac disease must change their diet and avoid gluten for the rest of their life. This can be challenging (unless gluten-free labels appear on the food), because in addition to the obvious places, “”http://www.csaceliacs.org/celiac_treatment.php#Found">gluten is also ‘hidden’ in many processed foods such as frozen French fried potatoes, soy sauce and rice cereal. Even many non-food items like cosmetics, and household cleansers contain gluten." The risk of cross-contamination from other foods can present problems when eating in restaurants or traveling, and beer lovers will need to switch to gluten-free beer…
In the June 26th issue of Chemistry & Biology, Siegel et al. determined that two enzymes (a glutamine-specific cysteine protease from barley and a prolyl endopeptidase) could be used to degrade gluten in an acidic environment – neither enzyme worked very well on its own, but the combination was able to detoxify “”http://www.chembiol.com/content/article/fulltext?uid=PIIS1074552106001499">grocery store gluten … within 10 min of simulated duodenal conditions."
The hope is that these enzymes could be taken orally by someone with Celiac disease before eating (like Lactaid for lactose-intolerant people), helping them “”http://www.forbes.com/forbeslife/health/feeds/hscout/2006/06/28/hscout533484.html">cope with the ‘hidden’ gluten in everyday life … [and enabling them to] resume a more normal diet."
Joshua Finkelstein (Associate Editor, Nature)