Tuesday October 15, 2019

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

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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.

 

Next Story

Certain Flavoured E-Cigarettes Worsen Severity of Diseases Such as Asthma

This is especially important for those with respiratory disease, whom are vulnerable to the effects of smoking

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Flavoured, E-Cigarettes, Diseases
Certain flavoured e-cigarettes, even without nicotine, may change how airways, affected by an allergic disease, function, thus worsening the severity of diseases such as asthma, say researchers. Pixabay

Certain flavoured e-cigarettes, even without nicotine, may change how airways, affected by an allergic disease, function, thus worsening the severity of diseases such as asthma, say researchers.

For the first time, a model of asthma was used to investigate the effect of a range of popular e-cigarette flavours, with and without nicotine.

“This is especially important for those with respiratory disease, whom are vulnerable to the effects of smoking,” Dr Chapman said.

“The majority of e-cigarette smokers use flavoured liquids but there is some evidence that flavour additives can be toxic when inhaled,” said Dr David Chapman from from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

Flavoured, E-Cigarettes, Diseases
Certain flavoured e-cigarettes, even without nicotine, may change how airways, affected by an allergic disease, function, thus worsening the severity of diseases such as asthma, say researchers. Pixabay

The use of e-cigarettes has dramatically increased in the past few years, especially among younger smokers globally.

Despite the suggestion they are a healthier alternative to tobacco cigarettes, there is a lack of evidence in both animal studies and human data on the effect of e-cigarettes on lung function.

The researchers found that some flavoured e-cigarettes, even in the absence of nicotine, can worsen disease severity.

“The exact effects on features of asthma were dependent upon the specific flavour, suggesting not all flavoured e-cigarettes will have the same consequences on lung health,” Dr Chapman said in the study published in Scientific Reports.

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In this study, the flavour Black Licorice exaggerated airway inflammation whereas Cinnacide had the opposite effect, suppressing airway inflammation.

The researchers didn’t analyse the liquids directly, to confirm what they contained, however there is evidence from previous research that flavours categorised as “buttery/creamy” and “cinnamon”, which likely include “Banana Pudding” and “Cinnacide”, respectively, are toxic.

Caution should be taken in promoting the use of flavoured e-cigarettes to patients with respiratory disease such as asthma and that policy makers should consider restricting the use of flavoured e-cigarettes, the team added. (IANS)