Carnivorous plants seem like the stuff of science fiction. They’re strategically designed to lure insects into inescapable traps, where they proceed to melt the bugs alive using digestive enzymes. Now, this badass evolutionary trait might be able to help humans cope with one of our modern-day challenges: gluten intolerance.
By Kaleigh Rogers | MOTHERBOARD
To be clear: I’m not talking about the people who “try to stay gluten free” because they think it’s “healthier” (spoiler alert: it’s not). I’m talking about people whose bodies don’t fully break down gluten, leading to stomach pain, cramping, and damage to their lower intestines. Joanna Schroeder, who has Celiac, penned in Good Housekeeping last year how difficult it can be to navigate this disease.
“If I eat gluten by accident, I get very sick, and have even ended up in the hospital, dangerously dehydrated from vomiting and diarrhea,” Schroeder wrote.
For these people, who have Celiac disease or another gluten intolerance, keeping gluten-free isn’t trendy, it’s necessary. A new treatment using the enzymes of tropical pitcher plants (which have a cup-like shape that traps insects) could hold a solution, according to research published last week in the journal Scientific Reports. Turns out the same enzymes that give bug-eating plants the ability to gobble up flies is remarkably good at breaking apart gluten proteins, according to the study, which could allow gluten-intolerant folks to knock back a beer or a slice of pizza with impunity.