As celiacs, we know we can’t have gluten. Simply put gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye (and their derivatives). New research out of Columbia University’s Celiac Disease Center in New York City says there could be more to what people with celiac disease are reacting to– than just gluten — when it comes to wheat.
The study published in the Journal of Proteome Research says not only do we have the well-known immune reaction to gluten (gliadins and glutenins), but we are also having a “robust humoral response directed at a specific subset of the nongluten proteins of wheat”, the article says.
Humoral response is defined by Merriam-Webster as “relating to or being the part of immunity or the immune response that involves antibodies secreted by B cells and circulating in bodily fluids”. The report also uses the word cellular for humoral.
Specifically, a protein called the “serpin” protein was the “most reactive nongluten antigen identified” in the report. It says “wheat serpin proteins belong to the large family of serine protease inhibitors present in many organisms.”
Researchers concluded that we should be looking beyond the gluten in wheat and consider nongluten proteins too. It should be noted specifically for other researchers looking into treatments for people with celiac disease.
“The possibility of such a role for these proteins is worthy of attention, especially as therapies other than gluten exclusion from the diet are under development,” the report says. “For example, proteolytic enzymes with specificity for the toxic fragments of gluten may be insufficiently active against other immunogenic proteins.” In other words, an enzyme that targets gluten for breakdown may miss these other proteins and subsequently may not work as well as they should.
More research may be necessary in this area. There is much more detail in this report than listed here. To see the full study, click here.