New gene therapy could 'turn off' asthma

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A new gene therapy has developed by the researchers that may help to turn off the immune response.

The findings of the study were printed in the journal JCI Insight. The study was led by researchers from the University of Queensland. The team has used blood stem cells engineered with a gene that focuses on immune cells, according to New Atlas.

During the research, blood stem cells were taken, specific gene was inserted which regulates the allergen protein and injected into the recipient. "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".

The professor said that they have now been able to wipe the memory of these T-cells in animals using the gene therapy. He further explained that those engineered cells generate new blood cells that express the protein and target immune cells and "turning off" the allergic response.

"When someone has an allergy or asthma flare-up, the symptoms they experience result from immune cells reacting to protein in the allergen", Professor Ray Steptoe, who led the research, said in a statement.

A single treatment can give life-long protection from asthma as well as who suffers from severe allergies to peanuts, shell fish, bee venom, and other substances by de-sensitising the immune system to tolerate the protein; the findings showed this. The team instead applied it to mice with a specific asthma allergen, and found it was able to prevent allergic responses.

"We haven't quite got it to the point where it's as simple as getting a flu jab", says Professor Steptoe, "so we are working on making it simpler and safer so it could be used across a wide cross-section of affected individuals". While this treatment has worked in mice it is not yet ready for use in humans and may take as long as 5 or 6 years before clinical trials in humans could begin and another 5 years of human trials. Imagine a single injection treatment that could completely "cure" asthma and eliminate allergic responses for a lifetime by changing the gene within "T" cells which react to proteins in peanuts, seafood, and in bee venom.

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