Sandwiches at Balducci's

Are these sandwiches in your future?

As with any post about medications pertaining to celiac disease, I want to start this one off with some managed expectations: the research contained in the next few paragraphs is promising, but don’t go out and buy yourself a croissantwich just yet.

But: there is research! And it is promising! Eventually, one of these years, probably, we will have a whole host of options for how we choose to interact with gluten. Today’s exciting research tidbit comes out of Israel, where a company called BioLineRx has announced pre-clinical results of a drug that reduces the toxicity of gluten for people with celiac disease.

According to the press release, the drug (currently called BL-7010) is a polymer, taken orally, that has a high affinity for gliadin (a big component in gluten). Once the polymer has attached itself to some gluten, the gluten becomes indigestible/unrecognizable and passes through the person’s body without triggering a response.  If I run the release through the weird little world in my head, BL-7010 is kind of like that weird friend you had once, who tried to sneak into clubs before you were 21 by swinging an arm around you and telling you to stay close act nonchalant, as if you went out clubbing all the time.

OK so I didn’t really have a friend like that, but the point is that BL-7010 would work by glomming onto gluten and then getting pooped out. The most recent studies were published in Gastroenterology in February, and were conducted on rats. They indicate that the drug, “prevents gluten-induced pathological damage to the small intestine” and also that it does not get absorbed into the body — both very good things.

Just as it can be nigh-impossible to guess the actual PPM count of any specific food labeled gluten-free, it’s currently nigh-impossible to tell how much gluten the drug could be expected to handle. Would it be a preventative against cross-contamination when you’re out to eat? Would it be powerful enough to withstand a slice of pizza? These questions will take quite a while to answer, but it’s great news that scientists are at least starting to ask them. In the meantime, there’s a few dozen thousand gluten-free options in most supermarkets (thanks, gluten-free grocery guide!), so no one will be going hungry for lack of delicious options.

To read more about the drug or about BioLineRx, check out their website.