Scientists Are Getting Close to Being Able to Turn Off Your Allergies

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Well, this is excellent news for allergy sufferers! Scientists are getting close to an allergy treatment that would effectively “turn off” allergies. Yes, you read that right. Rather than focus on short-term allergy relief, they’re hoping that this new research will lead to a long-term (and perhaps permanent) therapy for allergy and asthma sufferers. For people who have seasonal allergies, this sounds great. But for people with life-threatening allergies, like peanuts or bee stings, this would be a total game-changer. Science is back on my good side today.

Allergies are annoying for seasonal sufferers, sure. But they can be deadly for adults and children who’re allergic to things like peanuts, shellfish, and dairy.

An immunology team at The University of Queensland may have found the answer to treating allergic reactions and asthma, and it sounds incredibly promising. When you have an allergy or asthma flare-up, the symptoms are the result of immune cells reacting to protein in the allergen. But these cells, called T-cells, can develop something called an “immune memory”. When that happens, the cells become resistant to treatment. And that can be disastrous for asthma and allergy sufferers.

But researchers have developed a gene therapy that has been able to completely wipe the immune memory of these T-cells in animals. This therapy desensitizes the immune system, so it can tolerate the protein in the allergen.

Associate Professor Ray Steptoe led the research team at the university. He says, “We envisage in the future, with this approach, that they could go to the doctors’ rooms, get a single treatment and that would give them permanent protection from future allergic attacks or asthma attacks.” And because this therapy is targeted, it won’t have any effect on the body’s immune system in regard to other defenses, like vaccines.

While this research is indeed promising, it’s important to remember that it’s only shown success in mice. But researchers are hoping to start human trials in 5 – 6 years. It would be another 5 – 6 years before the therapy was available to patients. Still, it’s exciting to see all the research going into making living with allergies less stressful and more manageable. Good stuff happening! Eventually.

(Image: iStock / AlexRaths)