Bring on the gluten: Vaccine offers celiac relief

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A peek inside the Friednman family’s kitchen leaves one seeing double.

There are two microwaves, two toasters, and two different pantries.

It’s how the family separates the family’s meals from the gluten-free foods necessary for their 15-year-old son Tyler, who has celiac disease.

“He can go in there and get a snack and not have to read every label and worry about things,” Wendy Friedman says.

Tyler says that worry has taken some of the fun out of being a teenager.

“I have to miss a lot of opportunities or hangouts with friends,” he says, explaining many restaurants are simply off limits.

For someone living with celiac, consuming gluten can lead to abdominal pain, weight loss, fatigue and bloating.

The answer so far has been simply to avoid gluten, but now pharmaceutical company Immusan-T is developing a drug called NexVax2.

It aims to reprogram celiac patients’ immune systems so they stop reacting to gluten.

“NexVax2 consists of tiny fragments of gluten and it’s injected under the skin,” says Benjamin Lebwohl, director of clinical research at Columbia University’s Celiac Disease Center. “Now the immune system usually sees gluten after its eaten in the intestine. So the theory, if NexVax 2 works, is that the immune system, now seeing these fragments of gluten in a different way, might learn to tolerate gluten.”

Tyler is not among the 150 patients participating in the drug trial, but he and his family say if proven to work, the drug would be a game changer.

“He would be able to go back to spontaneous food decisions,” Craig Friedman says.

Experts are optimistic.

“We’re in a new era – an era of trials where there are a number of promising non-dietary medications and we’re hopeful that one or more of these medications will one day be proven to effective,” Lebwohl says.

Phase Two of the trials is estimated to be completed later this year.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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