Scientists at the University of Queensland in Australia claim they have discovered a treatment that will “turn-off” immune responses from asthma and possibly severe allergies.
The immunology research findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, and suggest that a single treatment providing life-long protection from severe allergies such as asthma could be made possible.
Professor Steptoe, the lead of the research team, explains “When someone has an allergy or asthma flare-up, the symptoms they experience results from immune cells reacting to protein in the allergen. The challenge in asthma and allergies is that these immune cells, known as T-cells, develop a form of immune ‘memory’ and become very resistant to treatments. We have now been able ‘wipe’ the memory of these T-cells in animals with gene therapy, de-sensitizing the immune system so that it tolerates the protein.”
The research uses an experimental asthma allergen, but researchers believe this treatment could be applied to treat those who have severe allergies to peanuts, bee venom, shell fish and other substances.
“We take blood stem cells, insert a gene which regulates the allergen protein and we put that into the recipient. Those engineered cells produce new blood cells that express the protein and target specific immune cells, ‘turning off’ the allergic response.”
The findings are subject to further pre-clinical investigation, as it has not been tested in humans. The next step is to test it on human cells in the lab.
The goal is to have a single injected gene therapy, replacing short-term treatments that target allergy symptoms with varying degrees of effectiveness.
Source: Queensland University