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Therapeutics & Diagnostics 18-054

Celiac Disease Interventions by Agents Affecting the AhR Pathway

To mitigate the symptoms of celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders, McMaster researchers have developed a new combination therapy.

Tech ID



Elena Verdu
Bruno Lamas
Jeremy Mark Wells
Philippe Langella
Harry Sokol

Patent Status

US, CA, and EP Patent Applications Filed.

Stage of Research

Proof of principle data available; Science Translational Medicine, 2020.


Carmen Carrasquilla
Business Development Manager


Celiac disease is a chronic autoimmune disease in which ingestion of even tiny amounts of gluten can trigger an immune response that causes symptoms such as abdominal pain, headache, fatigue and constipation. While environmental factors, such as the gut microbiota, are implicated in the development of celiac disease, the mechanisms behind this are not well understood. Currently, the only efficient treatment for celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders is a strict, life-long diet of gluten-free foods, which can be costly and challenging to maintain.

Researchers at McMaster University have identified a new pathway, the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) pathway, that is impaired in celiac disease patients. In doing so, they found administering agents that can be metabolized to activate the AhR pathway, particularly with specific probiotic bacteria, reduces gluten-induced pathology, inflammation and gut dysfunction in animal models of celiac disease. This highlights that AhR activation, can be a target for the development of novel therapeutics and interventions for treating celiac disease.


  • Development of new preventative and therapeutic strategies to treat and/or ameliorate gastrointestinal symptoms of gluten-related disorders, such as celiac disease.
  • Method for monitoring treatment efficacy of celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders by determining AhR activity.


  • Reduce the severity of gluten-related disease symptoms.
  • Improve quality of life of people with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders.
  • Better understanding of gut microbiota effects on gluten-induced immunopathology.


Image obtained from:

Hamilton Health Sciences, St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton and McMaster University logos.