Henry E. Young, Mark O. Speight
Celiac disease can occur at any age and express a wide variety of signs and symptoms. A gluten-free diet is currently the only effective mode of treatment. While exclusion of gluten from the diet reverses many disease manifestations, it usually does not or is less efficient in patients with refractory celiac disease or associated autoimmune diseases. Targeted therapies to address both the nutritional and functional aspects of the disease have been devised, such as gluten-free grains and inhibition of proinflammatory cytokines. Currently, much of the promise for treating chronic and incurable diseases is centered on stem cell biology. Phase-I clinical trials using mesenchymal stem cells have demonstrated that the stem cells can be safely administered, and their effects appear to be immunomodulatory rather than regenerative. Based on previous studies, we hypothesized that allogeneic telomerase-positive stem cells
that lack the genes for celiac disease could be safely administered therapeutically. Our hypothesis predicts that such stem cells would repair damaged tissues within the gastrointestinal system leading to a reversal of symptoms. In a small study (n=1) the results demonstrated a safe and effective treatment for celiac disease with a decline of deaminated gliadin peptide titer from 73 to < 1.0 throughout an eight-year time frame of allogeneic stem cell treatments.