If not lifesaving, these findings could at least prove life altering for many in the future.
Scientists believe they may have found a life-long cure for allergies such as asthma. With Ireland having the fourth highest prevalence of asthma in the world, this new research will undoubtedly be welcomed by many.
With those who suffer from allergies, the immune system’s response is what causes the often harsh symptoms people can experience. As their T-cells (immune cells) fight the proteins in an allergen, severe symptoms like what we see in asthma sufferers, can prove deadly. An added problem is that these cells begin to develop a ‘memory,’ recognising in the future this protein they fought against previously. This is the aspect to these T-cells that causes them to be resistant to treatment also.
A team of researchers at The University of Queensland however have come up with a new way to ‘switch off’ this cell memory in animals. After testing on mice, they found that they can ‘erase’ this immune memory through gene therapy. Adding engineered cells that carry a gene which erases the cells memory would allow the immune system to tolerate the protein within the allergen, removing allergic reactions and symptoms.
Associate Professor, Ray Steptoe further explained,
“Those engineered cells produce new blood cells that express the protein and target specific immune cells, ‘turning off’ the allergic response.”
Obviously, further study is needed in the area, and on humans before any major benefits can come from the findings, whose end goal is to create a gene therapy that works after one injection.
“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 aim would be to get the breakthrough treatment to those with severe or lethal allergies.”