Saturday March 24, 2018

Gene Therapy: Scientists may have found a way to ‘turn off’ Asthma!

Asthma is a major chronic disease that makes it difficult to breathe properly. Scientists using 'Gene Therapy' may 'turn off' Asthma

FILE - A person uses an inhaler to cope with asthma. VOA
  • Asthma is a noncommunicable disease which narrows the air passage to the lungs causing difficulty in breathing.
  • Some 235 million people currently suffer from this chronic disease. 
  • It is a common disease among children. 

What is it? 

Asthma restricts a person’s ability to breathe. The inflammation narrows the extent of the air passage. It is a common disease in many parts of the world. Nearly 300 people suffer from Asthma according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. 250,000 are estimated to die from the disease. Asthma patients experience tightness in chest, shortness of breath, wheezing and coughing.

What are the recent developments?

The problem with Asthma and allergies as such is that the immune cells (also called the T-cells) are very resistant to treatments. That is because they have immune memory. Previously, scientists looked at nanoparticles so as to smuggle the allergen past the immune system. Now, scientists are able to wipe off the memory of these T-cells with gene therapy.

Diagrammatic representation of Asthma. Wikimedia

A research done at the University of Queensland led by Associate Professor Ray Steptoe shows some promising results. Dr. Steptoe has his lab at the Translational Research Institute.

The team of scientists took blood stem cells, inserted the gene that regulates allergen protein and then put it into the recipient. The gene produces cells that ‘turn off’ allergic responses in the recipient.

Through the experiment, scientists successfully terminated any allergic response by the body.

What the future holds?

This study was centered around Asthma. The results have encouraged the scientists to apply the study to provide protection against other common allergies- peanuts, bee venom, shellfish, etc.

Another challenge for the study ahead is an attempt to turn off multiple responses because there may be several proteins one might be allergic to.


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Smoking during pregnancy linked to asthma severity in kids

Prenatal tobacco smoke exposure was associated with a 2.5 times increase in odds of having airflow obstruction in children with asthma

  • Smoking during pregnancy can be very dangerous
  • It can lead to asthma and poor lung function in the baby
  • It also can have serve effects on the health of the mother

Women who smoke while pregnant contribute to the severity of asthma and poor lung function in their children warns a study.

The findings published in the journal CHEST suggest that tobacco smoke exposure during pregnancy is more strongly associated with worse lung function than current, ongoing exposure in school-aged children with asthma.

Smoking during pregnancy can be unhealthy for the child.

“This study implicates maternal smoking in pregnancy as the period of second-hand exposure that is more strongly associated with worse lung function in asthmatic children,” said lead investigator Stacey-Ann Whittaker Brown from Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York.

“Maternal smoking in pregnancy may set children with asthma on a trajectory of poor lung function in later childhood, and other studies suggest this effect may be lifelong,” Whittaker Brown said.

Investigators analysed the relationship between lung function and the type of second-hand smoke exposure in a representative sample of school-aged children aged six to 11 years.

Also Read: Why you should avoid Paracetamol during pregnancy

The sample consisted of 2,070 children who participated in the 2007-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in the US.

Detailed information about ongoing second-hand smoke exposure as well as parental self-reported exposure prior to birth was obtained.

During the study period, lung function was measured using spirometry, and exposure to smoking was assessed through levels of cotinine in the blood, a marker of the extent of current second-hand smoke exposure. Thus, investigators were able to distinguish clearly between exposure in pregnancy and ongoing second-hand smoke exposure.

Protein responsible for postpartum depression in pregnancy found
Smoking during pregnancy is very dangerous. IANS

Nearly 10 percent of both children with and without asthma in the sample had reduced lung function.

Investigators found that current tobacco smoke exposure was independently associated with airflow obstruction in school-aged children, although the extent of the association was small.

However, prenatal tobacco smoke exposure was associated with a 2.5 times increase in odds of having airflow obstruction in children with asthma, the study said. IANS