Imagine living a life free of asthma. Throw away puffers and medications and never have to worry about not being able to breathe again.
The Anti-Inflammatory Protein 2 (AIP2) could be a game-changer that transforms the lives of millions of people affected by asthma, and even potentially cure this cruel disease.
We’ve long been interested in how parasites like hookworms interact with humans. The ‘old friends’ hypothesis suggests that exposure to parasites early in life plays an important role in educating our immune system. Because hookworms usually stay in their human host for a long time, it’s in their own interests to look after their host and repair any damage they do to the gut.
We’ve isolated and synthesised the hookworm’s AIP2 protein, which has an astonishing ability to re-educate our immune system.
Preclinical testing in experimental models showed it is extremely powerful in treating asthma, but could potentially have broader applications such as hay fever, food allergy, and chronic bowel conditions such as Celiac, Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
We desperately want to further develop the synthesised AIP2 drug to reach a phase one clinical trial. But it is extremely frustrating. We don’t have enough funding to progress this game-changing research which could potentially save millions of sufferers from the damaging effects of Asthma.
When we test the AIP2 drug in our preclinical models, it appears to re-educate or reboot our immune system to the way it should have been in early childhood when you play with dirt and get exposed to parasites.
AIP2 is essentially restoring natural tolerance to control our own harmful immune responses and ensure damaged tissue gets repaired, and things go back to normal.
Renee has lost count of how many times she’s rushed her son Jeremy to the hospital as he struggled to breathe, trapped under the cruel grip of asthma.
Now aged 8, Jeremy has been in and out of hospital his entire life and relies on daily corticosteroids to keep asthma at bay.
So the development of AIP2 is both tantalising and frustrating. AIP2 could mean Jeremy could throw away his puffer, but with the potentially life-changing treatment still bogged down because of a lack of funding, hope quickly becomes frustration, even despair.
“The fact that Severine’s team is working towards a cure is amazing. It would be life-changing for our family and so many others. I desperately hope QIMR Berghofer can get the funding they need to finish this vital work.”
How could AIP2 potentially stop inflammation in the lungs?
Surprisingly, it starts in the mesenteric lymph nodes
inside our small intestine.
In our lymph nodes, there are dendritic cells and T-cells
that play a key role in regulating our immune system.
AIP2 protein is secreted naturally by hookworms in the host’s gut
but we can now produce it synthetically in the lab.
AIP2 enters the mesenteric lymph nodes where it is
absorbed by the dendritic cells.
The dendritic cells then reprogram the T-cells to become
regulatory T-cells or Tregs. Tregs are essential in
balancing and controlling our immune system.
Tregs prevent our immune system from going into
overdrive inappropriately. They stop inflammation
and could even repair damage in the lungs.
Associate Professor Severine Navarro is a Team Head of the Mucosal Immunology lab at QIMR Berghofer.
She is also a Children’s Hospital Foundation Fellow and spokesperson to the Woolworths Centre for Childhood Nutrition Research.
Her research focuses on the development of hookworm protein-based therapeutics for treating chronic inflammatory diseases such as asthma, allergy, inflammatory bowel diseases and mood disorders.
Dr Alistair Cook is a Thoracic Physician. He completed fellowships in Severe Asthma at the John Hunter Hospital, and Interventional Bronchoscopy at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. He works at the RBWH and Wesley Hospital with expertise in difficult asthma, COPD, lung cancer and bronchoscopy, and endobronchial ultrasound.