Scientists have discovered a DNA switch which can ‘turn off’ our reaction to allergies, an advance that may lead to gene therapies providing life-long protection from diseases like asthma with a single treatment.
Researchers from The University of Queensland(UQ) in Australia were able to switch off the immune response which causes allergic reaction in animals.
“When someone has an allergy or asthma flare-up, the symptoms they experience results from immune cells reacting to protein in the allergen,” said Ray Steptoe, Associate Professor at the UQ Diamantina Institute.
“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,” said Steptoe.
“We have now been able ‘wipe’ the memory of these T-cells in animals with gene therapy, de-sensitising the immune system so that it tolerates the protein,” he said.
For the study, detailed in the journal JCI Insight, the team took blood stem cells, and inserted a gene which regulated the allergen protein and put that into the recipients.
“Those engineered cells produced new blood cells that express the protein and target specific immune cells, ‘turning off’ the allergic response,” Steptoe noted.
The eventual goal would be a single injected gene therapy, that is simpler and safer which could be used across a wide cross-section of affected individuals, he said.