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Zonulin and the tight junctions

A leading celiac researcher, Dr. Alessio Fasano, and his team at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, are testing a medication designed to prevent the inflammatory peptides in gluten from activating the tight junctions in the mucosa of the intestines.  According to the team's previous research, when gluten is ingested, a protein known as zonulin is produced, and it facilitates the opening of the tight junctions, which increases intestinal permeability.  If the tight junctions open wide enough, not only will amino acids pass through into the bloodstream, but certain oversize peptides will also escape into the blood, resulting in the clinical symptoms so familiar to celiacs and other individuals who are sensitive to gluten.  The drug under development is designed to suppress the release of zonulin in the intestinal mucosa, and thereby prevent the patient from suffering the clinical symptoms of gluten sensitivity.

A new corporation, Alba Therapeutics, has been formed to further the development of a tight junction modulator known as larazotide acetate, and the project has been granted fast-track status by the FDA.  On July 14, 2011, the group began soliciting subjects to begin a Phase 2B study, involving human subjects.1

1. A Double-blind Placebo-controlled Study to Evaluate Larazotide Acetate for the Treatment of Celiac Disease

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