Another promising prospect to treat coeliac disease and gluten intolerance.



Have you heard of Elafin?

……No, it is not the name of a mythical magical being.


Elafin is a natural human protein that has antiproteolytic properties amongst other beneficial properties. Antiproteolytic means that it inhibits the activity of enzymes that break down proteins during digestion.


Due to this property, results of studies on several animal models have raised the possibility that elafin might be effective in the treatment of a variety of human inflammatory diseases (3). It was initially being trialled on post-operative inflammation and the clinical consequences of major surgery.


But what has this got to do with coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity?


Scientists have recently shown that Elafin plays a key role against the inflammatory reaction typical of coeliac disease. They found that patients with active coeliac disease expressed a lower amount of Elafin from the small intestine (1). On the other hand, they also noted that Elafin can prevent the destruction of the gut barrier during inflammation, that it can interact with enzymes responsible for the abnormal breakdown of gluten, and that it can reduce gluten toxicity in gluten- sensitive mice (1,2).


A way to deliver the missing Elafin to coeliac patients has been proposed. In the same study described above, the scientists administered Elafin with help of a harmless bacterium that is often present in food to gluten intolerant mice. They developed a strain of this bacterium that enables a targeted and local production of Elafin and this significantly decreased inflammatory reaction in these mice (2).


This is a promising prospect to treat coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity. More research is needed to understand the mechanisms of this in human coeliac disease patients, and to identify other bacteria that naturally produce proteins with anti-inflammatory properties similar to Elafin (2).




This is just another potential treatment for coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity. I had written a post last January about the enzyme that is being developed to treat coeliac disease.

To read it click here:




1. Galipeau, H.J., Wiepjes, M., Motta,J.P., Schulz, J.D., Jury,J., Natividad, J.M.,……& Verdu, E.F. (2014, April, 8) “Novel Role of the Serine Protease Inhibitor Elafin in Gluten-Related Disorders. Abstract.” The American Journal of Gastroenterology. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.

2. INRA – Paris. (2014, April 7). Natural protein Elafin against gluten intolerance?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 10, 2014 from

3. Shaw, L., & Wiedow.O. (2011) “Therapeutic Potential of Human Elafin.” Biochemical Society Transactions. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.



photo credit: <a href=””>Anna Fischer</a> via <a href=””>photopin</a&gt; <a href=””>cc</a&gt;