Nav: Home

Gene therapy could 'turn off' severe allergies

June 02, 2017

A single treatment giving life-long protection from severe allergies such as asthma could be made possible by immunology research at The University of Queensland.

A team led by Associate Professor Ray Steptoe at the UQ Diamantina Institute has been able to 'turn-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," Professor Steptoe said.

"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, de-sensitising the immune system so that it tolerates the protein.

"Our work used an experimental asthma allergen, but this research could be applied to treat those who have severe allergies to peanuts, bee venom, shell fish and other substances."

Dr Steptoe said the findings would be subject to further pre-clinical investigation, with the next step being to replicate results using human cells in the laboratory."

"We take blood stem cells, insert a gene which regulates the allergen protein and we put that into the recipient.

"Those engineered cells produce new blood cells that express the protein and target specific immune cells, 'turning off' the allergic response."

Dr Steptoe said the eventual goal would be a single injected gene therapy, replacing short-term treatments that target allergy symptoms with varying degrees of effectiveness.

"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," Dr Steptoe said.

"At the moment, the target population might be those individuals who have severe asthma or potentially lethal food allergies."

Dr Steptoe's research has been funded by the Asthma Foundation and the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Asthma Foundation of Queensland and New South Wales Chief Executive Officer Dr Peter Anderson said more than two million Australians have asthma, and current statistics show that more than half of those are regularly burdened with symptoms of the disease.

"Even though there are effective treatments available for the vast majority, patients face a number of obstacles and challenges in their self-management practices," Dr Anderson said.

"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."

The research is published in JCI Insight.
-end-
Dr Steptoe's lab is located at the Translational Research Institute.

Media: Associate Professor Ray Steptoe, r.steptoe@uq.edu.au; Kim Lyell, k.lyell@uq.edu.au, 0427 530647.

Media please note: A broadcast quality interview with Dr Steptoe and footage of his team working in the laboratory is available on request. Further comment and case study details can be arranged through Lyn Edwards, Asthma Foundation Queensland and New South Wales, 07 3607 6705, 0422 326465.

University of Queensland

Related Asthma Articles:

Breastfeeding and risks of allergies and asthma
In an Acta Paediatrica study, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 3 months was linked with a lower risk of respiratory allergies and asthma when children reached 6 years of age.
Researchers make asthma breakthrough
Researchers from Trinity College Dublin have made a breakthrough that may eventually lead to improved therapeutic options for people living with asthma.
Physics vs. asthma
A research team from the MIPT Center for Molecular Mechanisms of Aging and Age-Related Diseases has collaborated with colleagues from the U.S., Canada, France, and Germany to determine the spatial structure of the CysLT1 receptor.
New knowledge on the development of asthma
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have studied which genes are expressed in overactive immune cells in mice with asthma-like inflammation of the airways.
Eating fish may help prevent asthma
A scientist from James Cook University in Australia says an innovative study has revealed new evidence that eating fish can help prevent asthma.
Academic performance of urban children with asthma worse than peers without asthma
A new study published in Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows urban children with poorly controlled asthma, particularly those who are ethnic minorities, also suffer academically.
Asthma Controller Step Down Yardstick -- treatment guidance for when asthma improves
The focus for asthma treatment is often stepping up treatment, but clinicians need to know how to step down therapy when symptoms improve.
Asthma management tools improve asthma control and reduce hospital visits
A set of comprehensive asthma management tools helps decrease asthma-related visits to the emergency department, urgent care or hospital and improves patients' asthma control.
Asthma linked to infertility but not among women taking regular asthma preventers
Women with asthma who only use short-acting asthma relievers take longer to become pregnant than other women, according to research published in the European Respiratory Journal.
What are the best ways to diagnose and manage asthma?
A team of experts from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston examined the current information available from many different sources on diagnosing and managing mild to moderate asthma in adults and summarized them.
More Asthma News and Asthma Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Meditations on Loneliness
Original broadcast date: April 24, 2020. We're a social species now living in isolation. But loneliness was a problem well before this era of social distancing. This hour, TED speakers explore how we can live and make peace with loneliness. Guests on the show include author and illustrator Jonny Sun, psychologist Susan Pinker, architect Grace Kim, and writer Suleika Jaouad.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#565 The Great Wide Indoors
We're all spending a bit more time indoors this summer than we probably figured. But did you ever stop to think about why the places we live and work as designed the way they are? And how they could be designed better? We're talking with Emily Anthes about her new book "The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of how Buildings Shape our Behavior, Health and Happiness".
Now Playing: Radiolab

The Third. A TED Talk.
Jad gives a TED talk about his life as a journalist and how Radiolab has evolved over the years. Here's how TED described it:How do you end a story? Host of Radiolab Jad Abumrad tells how his search for an answer led him home to the mountains of Tennessee, where he met an unexpected teacher: Dolly Parton.Jad Nicholas Abumrad is a Lebanese-American radio host, composer and producer. He is the founder of the syndicated public radio program Radiolab, which is broadcast on over 600 radio stations nationwide and is downloaded more than 120 million times a year as a podcast. He also created More Perfect, a podcast that tells the stories behind the Supreme Court's most famous decisions. And most recently, Dolly Parton's America, a nine-episode podcast exploring the life and times of the iconic country music star. Abumrad has received three Peabody Awards and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011.