Gene Therapy Study Protects Against Peanut Allergy

Peanuts are the most common food that induces fatal or near-fatal reactions in those who are allergic to them, and a cure or preventative treatment is not yet available. Peanut allergies occur when a person’s immune system overreacts to peanut proteins and produces an antibody called Immunoglobulin E (IgE), which stimulates the release of inflammatory chemicals.

The drug omalizumab, is a monoclonal antibody that binds to IgE and neutralizes it, has been effective in protecting against peanut allergy, but has significant limitations. The drug is expensive, must be injected and is only effective for two to four weeks. For these reasons, Dr. Crystal states “It’s not a practical preventative treatment for peanut allergy, even though it works.”

The June 2016 study describes a new version of the drug that is effective in peanut-allergic mice with just a single dose. Adding the genetic sequence of omalizumab to a virus, and injecting the allergic mice proved to be the effective solution. Researchers found that one dose of the gene therapy prevented allergic reactions in mice that were allergic but had never had a reaction, as well as in mice that had already been exposed to peanuts and had anaphylactic reactions.

Dr. Crystal said. “If the therapy works as well in humans as in rodents, a single therapy may provide protection against allergic reactions for a lifetime.”

The technique could also be effective against other IgE-mediated allergies, such as bee sting and shellfish, he added.

Source: Weill Cornell Medicine

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