Researchers from the University of Queensland have discovered a way to switch off immune reactions from allergies such as asthma.
The study, published in JCI Insight proposes that common allergies to peanuts and shellfish could be cured by the new treatment.
The method revolves around the erasure of cells that form memories resilient to treatment. The researchers, while experimenting with gene therapy successfully desensitised the immune system, providing a stable protection that will hypothetically last forever explained associate professor Ray Steptoe.
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, desensitising the immune system so that it tolerates the protein.
Dr Steptoe goes on to explain that the next stage of trialling, will replicate results “using human cells in the laboratory.”
This will be done by taking blood stem cells and inserting them with a gene that will regulate the allergen. This will then be put in the human recipient to target specific immune cells and in turn, eventually switching off the allergic response.
The final stage according to Dr Steptoe, is to have a singular injected gene therapy to replace treatments that are unreliable and short term.
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,
The new treatment will target long time asthma suffers and those with fatal food allergies. The trialling process is expected to last five more years before human trials begin. The “single-jab” cure is at least 10-15 years away.
Dr Peter Anderson, CEO of the Asthma Foundation of Queensland and New South Wales explains that for the two million Australians who suffer from severe asthma, this new treatment could be life changing:
The Foundation welcomes the findings of this research and looks forward to a day in the future when a safe one-off treatment may be available that has the potential to eliminate any experience of asthma in vulnerable patients.