Zonulin found to play critical role in inflammatory process and autoimmunity.
University of Maryland research lead by Dr. Alessio Fasano has identified the precursor to a host of autoimmune disorders including celiac disease. Findings published in the September 7th, 2009 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences link the human protein zonulin to the body’s autoimmune and inflammatory processes.
The previously mysterious protein has been discovered to act as a precursor for haptoglobin 2, a molecule acknowledged as a marker of inflammation in the human body. Fasano believes zonulin to be the underlying impetus for the loss of protective cells in the intestines, which causes those with a predisposition for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to react when gluten enters the body.
"This molecule could be a critical missing piece of the puzzle to lead to a treatment for celiac disease, other autoimmune disorders and allergies and even cancer, all of which are related to an exaggerated production of zonulin/pre-haptoglobin 2 and to the loss of the protective barrier of cells lining the gut and other areas of the body, like the blood brain barrier," says Dr. Fasano.
This latest research provides a deeper understanding of the processes and mechanisms behind celiac disease and autoimmune disorders as a whole, helping medical professionals to better diagnose and treat those that are suffering from these conditions.
"The only current treatment for celiac disease is cutting gluten from the diet, but we have confidence Dr. Fasano's work will someday bring further relief to these patients. Zonulin, with its functions in health and disease as outlined in Dr. Fasano's paper, could be the molecule of the century," says E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., dean of the School of Medicine, vice president for medical affairs of the University of Maryland and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor.
For more information about Dr. Fasano’s study, click here for the press release.