JUN 03, 2017 11:08 AM PDT

Gene Therapy Could be the Answer for Severe Allergies

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Gene therapy is normally thought of as a potential treatment for genetic disease, but researchers are exploring its use as a therapy for severe allergies.  Our immune system has a special memory system of its own, and while it’s normally a good thing and is required for the efficacy of vaccines, when it reacts to non-pathogenic stimuli as a foreign invader, allergies develop. Researchers have now shown that it is possible to turn that immune response off, quieting the allergy in animal models with a single treatment.

"When someone has an allergy or asthma flare-up, the symptoms they experience results from immune cells reacting to protein in the allergen," explained Ray Steptoe, an Associate Professor  at The University of Queensland Diamantina Institute. His team has published their new work in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight, and it is outlined in the video.

"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, desensitizing the immune system so that it tolerates the protein.”

The researchers inserted a gene that acts to modulate the allergic response into blood stem cells, then put those modified stem cells into a mouse model.

While this research was somewhat limited in terms of the variety of allergens that exist, Steptoe is confident it could be extrapolated for use in other allergy scenarios. "Our work used an experimental asthma allergen, but this research could be applied to treat those who have severe allergies to peanuts, bee venom, shell fish and other substances,” he said.

The investigators plan to continue working on this technique, and their next step will be to validate their findings in human cells that grow in culture. Steptoe explains their experimental protocol: ”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 ultimate goal would be a single injection that would replace treatments that only last for a limited time and have to be continuously redone.

"We haven't quite got it to the point where it's as simple as getting a flu jab, so we are working on making it simpler and safer so it could be used across a wide cross-section of affected individuals," Steptoe said. "At the moment, the target population might be those individuals who have severe asthma or potentially lethal food allergies.”

The research is of special interest to Australia, where over two million people are affected with asthma and over half experience symptoms regularly.

Steptoe is featured discussing his research in the video.

 

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via UQ, JCI Insight

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
DEC 08, 2019
Cell & Molecular Biology
DEC 08, 2019
Time-Restricted Eating Improves Symptoms of Metabolic Syndrome
Occasional fasting has been linked to a variety of health benefits....
DEC 20, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
DEC 20, 2019
Can We Cure Down's Syndrome with Gene Therapy?
Down’s Syndrome (DS) is a genetic disorder brought on by the presence of all of part of a third copy of chromosome 21. Linked to delays in physical g...
DEC 25, 2019
Drug Discovery & Development
DEC 25, 2019
New Drug to Make Breast Cancer Treatment More Affordable
The US Food and Drug Administration has granted accelerated approval to new breast cancer drug, trastuzumab deruxtecan. The drug’s increasing recogni...
JAN 04, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
JAN 04, 2020
Shared Mechanisms of Mitochondrial Division Highlight Evolutionary Links
Organisms as different as humans and algae have some biological mechanisms in common....
FEB 13, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 13, 2020
Study of Early-Onset Parkinson's Reveals Potential Therapeutic
Around 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease every year, and the rate of the disease is rising....
FEB 18, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
FEB 18, 2020
How Too Much Fluoride Can Disrupt Tooth Enamel
You can have too much of a good thing....
Loading Comments...