Gene Therapy Can Switch Off Asthma and Other Severe Allergies

Fagjun | Published 2017-06-04 08:55

Gene therapy can give you lifelong protection against the worst of your allergies.

This treatment relies mainly on the immune response that gives rise to asthma and other conditions. Exposure to allergens means experiencing allergy symptoms. When we experience the symptoms of our allergies, it's because our T-cells are reacting to the allergen's protein.

We can be allergic to normally harmless things that won't cause a reaction in many other people. Allergies also have a range of reactions, from watery eyes to death. Of course, only the most extreme cases end up fatal.

The problem is that our T-cells can develop an immune “memory” and thus become more immune to allergy treatments. For now, the most effective way to avoid allergy symptoms is to simply avoid allergens. However, this isn't always all that easy or even possible. Thus, there's a need for a better way to deal with our allergies.

Immune Response

How do you cope when allergy season is here?

Researchers thus found a way to wipe our T-cells' memory through gene therapy. This treatment desensitizes an oversensitive immune system. It is then able to tolerate the protein from the allergen.

The team took bone marrow from genetically modified mice that are resistant to asthma. They then transplanted the bone marrow to an unmodified mice. The researchers also inserted a gene that regulates the allergen protein into the mice's blood stem cells. After this, they injected the stem cells into the recipient mice.

This process enables the blood stem cells to produce blood cells that express the allergen protein and target immune cells. It's in this way that the treatment is able to turn off the immune response that produces allergy symptoms.

Eventually, the treatment should turn into gene therapy that requires just one injection. If the researchers are able to successfully develop this treatment, there will be no more need for short-term allergy treatments. The goal is to make the treatment as simple and as safe as possible so it can be available to a majority of people.

Waiting for Gene Therapy

Don't let go of that inhaler just yet.

The researchers used the asthma allergen for the study, but they claim that the research is applicable to other allergens as well. This includes peanuts, shellfish, and other common allergens.

However, we need to note that this study has only experimented on mice. Human trials still have yet to come. Thus, it won't be wise to throw out inhalers out just yet. For now, we'll have to stick with the short-term treatments that we've gotten used to. However, let's hope that a single-shot gene therapy does come to fruition soon.

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