A potential drug in development for celiac disease has passed one early hurdle: research just published showed that the drug slowed the immune system response to gluten in gluten-sensitive mice.
The drug, known as BL-7010 (formerly known as P(HEMA-co-SS)), is being developed by BioLineRx, an Israel-based pharmaceutical company. Results of this early testing appear in the medical journal Gastroenterology.
Like other celiac disease drugs currently in development, BL-7010 is intended to be used while you're eating a gluten-free diet in order to protect against accidental gluten cross-contamination. It wouldn't allow you to eat gluten again.
The new research indicates that BL-7010, a type of polymer, actually reduces digestion of gluten by binding to it, which decreases gluten's toxicity. It also seems to slow the immune system response to gluten and may prevent gluten-induced damage to the small intestine. The drug itself isn't absorbed -- instead, it works directly in the intestinal tract to stop digestion of some gluten molecules.
"This compound ... has the potential to be an effective adjunctive pharmacological therapy to improve the quality of life for millions of celiac disease patients," said Dr. Kinneret Savitsky, CEO of BioLineRx, in a statement.
BL-7010 has been tested only in mice so far, although researchers also experimented in the lab with biopsy specimens from people with diagnosed celiac disease. Those experiments showed the compound appears to help mitigate some intestinal immune system activity specific to celiac disease, but clinical trials will be needed to determine if it really does slow or halt intestinal damage.
The next step in testing BL-7010 is to perform pre-clinical studies to prove that the drug is safe, a step that's required before the drug can enter clinical trials, BioLineRx spokesperson Tsipi Haitovsky said.
Several other companies, including Alvine Pharmaceuticals, ImmusanT and Alba Therapeutics Corp., are vying to bring the first approved celiac disease drug to the market.
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