New gene therapy could ‘turn off’ asthma

MELBOURNE: 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.