Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine have found that the human protein zonulin, which regulates the permeability of the intestine, is at increased levels during the acute phase of celiac disease. The discovery suggests that increased levels of zonulin are a contributing factor to the development of celiac disease and other autoimmune disorders such as insulin dependent diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis. The findings are published in the April 29, 2000 issue of the journal Lancet.
"Zonulin works like the traffic conductor or the gatekeeper of our body's tissues," says lead author Alessio Fasano, M.D., professor of pediatrics and physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and director of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children. "Our largest gateway is the intestine with its billions of cells. Zonulin opens the spaces between cells allowing some substances to pass through while keeping harmful bacteria and toxins out," explains Dr. Fasano.
The above quote was taken from the University of Maryland Medical Center website.