A team of researchers believes to have found a way of preventing severe allergies. The scientists suggest using gene therapy to “turn off” the immune response generated by such allergies, even those provoked by common ingredients.
The study team is part of the University of Queensland in Australia. They published their research results in the JCI Insight.
“When someone has an allergy or asthma flare-up, the symptoms they experience result from immune cells reacting to protein in the allergen,” states Professor Ray Steptoe.
Prof. Steptoe, who led the study added that this research revolved around an ‘experimental asthma allergen’. However, the research results could come help people suffering from severe allergies caused by other factors as well. For example, it could treat peanut, bee venom or shellfish generated allergies, among others.
The research team specifically targeted immune cells or T-cells and their memory. They used gene therapy for erasing this latter, as usually, the T-cell memory forms a resistance to usual treatments.
By turning to this new method, the scientists managed to desensitize the immune system to the particular allergen. In turn, this ensured its permanent protection against it.
The study team took blood stem cells and later introduced a gene to help regulate the allergen protein. They noted that severe allergies could be stopped from developing by deleting the memory response to an allergen, which could prevent the immune system’s allergic response.
Severe Allergies, Treated With Just One Injection?
Presently, the study results are still in a pre-clinical phase, so they haven’t been tested on humans. Until now, the team has been using gene therapy on mice which presented a specific asthma allergen. In doing so, they noted that this helped prevent the usual allergic response. The researchers will next look to study this response on human cells in the lab.
Ultimately, the team hopes to develop a single injection treatment. One that could help prevent severe allergies thanks to a single, short treatment. However, they do point out that they have “at least five more years” of laboratory studies before even taking into consideration human trials.
The envisioned one-injection therapy is estimated as still being some 10, even 15 years away. Still, if proven right, it could mark a breakthrough in the treatment of allergies, according to the team.
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