Gluten pill may allow celiac disease sufferers to enjoy pizza, beer

People with celiac disease may soon be able to enjoy bread, pasta, pizza and beer without suffering headaches, digestion problems and severe intestinal damage.

Pill uses egg yolk antibodies to coat gluten, allowing it to pass from body without harm

Hoon Sunwoo developed a pill he believes will improve the quality of life for people with celiac disease. (Scott Lilwall/CBC)

People with celiac disease may soon be able to enjoy bread, pasta and other gluten products without suffering headaches, digestion problems and severe intestinal damage.

While not a cure, a pill developed at the University of Alberta may allow those people to join friends for a beer and pizza.

At least that's the reason Hoon Sunwoo, an associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences, gives for spending the last 10 years of his life to the pill.

"My friend is celiac. We haven't had any entertaining with beers. So, that's why I develop this pill -- for my friend."

Celiac disease is an auto-immune dysfunction of the small intestine that makes it hypersensitive to gluten, leading to difficulty in digesting food.

Sunwoo's pill uses egg yolk antibodies to coat the gluten and allow it to pass from the body without doing any damage.

"This is not treating the celiac disease or curing celiac disease," he told Edmonton AM host Tim Adams. "It's just to try to help them improve their quality of life so when they want to socialize with peers or friends."

Celiacs would take the pill five minutes before eating or drinking, and for the next one or two hours they could enjoy the foods that normally make them sick.

Sunwoo warns the pill is not a long-term solution and people with the disease must still adhere to a strict gluten-free diet.

The pill completed safety clinical trials two months ago and is expected to begin efficacy clinical trials next year.


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