October 14, 2020
Vancouver, BC — The number of people who suffer from airborne allergies, a condition known as rhinitis, continues to rise around the world. The World Allergy Organization estimates approximately 10 to 30% of adults and 40% of children are affected.
It is now understood that allergies arise from complex interactions between genetic and environmental factors. Exposure to allergens such as dust mites and pollen, as well as other air pollutants, can alter the ability of critical genes to be expressed appropriately. The epigenetic modifications induced by allergens and pollutants appear to be reversible, providing a mechanism by which allergies can be treated.
Drs. Chris Carlsten and Michael Kobor from the University of British Columbia have partnered with Johnson & Johnson in a new project that will harness the power of epigenetic analysis to determine whether the epigenetic landscape in patients suffering from allergies can be modified by the administration of budesonide (Rhinocort®), a corticosteroid nasal spray commonly used to treat allergy symptoms.
While the anti-inflammatory and other pharmacological aspects of budesonide are well understood, recent studies have suggested that budesonide may also work by reversing the epigenetic modifications caused by allergen exposure, although this has not been examined in the context of real-world exposures in humans.
“Allergic rhinitis has a huge cost globally in terms of quality of life, and none of our current treatments are as effective as we would like. Understanding which epigenetic pathways are altered by Rhinocort® may lead to improved treatments.” said Dr. Carlsten “To pursue this in partnership with Johnson & Johnson and Genome BC is a perfect example of academia working with industry and a strong genomic knowledge catalyst to achieve common goals.”
“We are excited to support a partnership between Johnson & Johnson and leading epigenetics researchers at UBC, to address a health concern that impacts the lives of so many British Columbians, and people around the world.” said Dr. Federica Di Palma, Chief Scientific Officer and VP Sectors at Genome BC.
This project, funded through Genome BC’s GeneSolve program, aims to fill critical gaps in understanding of epigenetic effects and provide information to examine the connection between environmental impacts and treatment. The research will expand the mechanistic understanding of the therapeutic effects of budesonide for relief of nasal rhinitis symptoms and may reveal new mechanisms that could improve treatment of allergies or pollution exposure or serve as a tool for evaluating future therapies. If this venture is successful, it will serve as a model for studying and optimizing the epigenetic effects of other treatments and other diseases.
About Genome BC’s GeneSolve program
The GeneSolve program seeks to foster applied and translational research by connecting the producers of genomics driven technologies with its end-users or consumers in BC’s Health, Agrifood and Natural Resources sectors.
Jennifer Boon, Communications Manager (Sectors)