Imagine, you undergo a single treatment and then for the rest of your life you’re no longer allergic to peanuts.
This is a future that could eventually become a reality after researchers in Australia claim to have found a way to effectively ‘turn off’ the allergic response in mice.
Associate Professor Ray Steptoe and his team at the University of Queensland found that they were able to simply wipe out the ‘memory’ of these allergies in the immune cells.
“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.”
While the team were focusing on asthma in particular, Dr Steptoe believes that the process could be applied to any number of allergies including, “peanuts, bee venom, shell fish and other substances.”
The next step is creating a process that works for humans.
“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.” explained Dr Steptoe.
While the team aren’t quite at the level where they can administer the treatment like a flu jab but that is the eventual aim of the research.
A word of caution, it’s still very early days and it’s believed that even if it can work for humans (which there’s no guarantee that it can) it would take at the very least 5-6 years before human trials could begin.