Dr. John Gordon: Improving our defenses

Sharing knowledge and resources for the future of respiratory research

The body’s natural defenses are well equipped to disrupt invading biological and non-biological matter from damaging the body. It is not always perfect however. In the case of asthma and anaphylactic food allergies, a mistake by the immune system means the emergence of chronic airway inflammation in the presence of an otherwise harmless trigger.

Dr. John Gordon and his team at the College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan have made significant progress on stopping this hyper-sensitive allergic immune response by targeting the stewards of the immune response, the dendritic cells. By reprogramming these cells to suppress the immune response, and reintroducing them back into the affected individual, Dr. Gordon’s team have shown that airway inflammation in allergen-challenged asthmatic or food allergic mice can be reduced by up to 90%, and also that this approach shuts down allergen-specific responses of allergic donors in the test tube This discovery has since been widely reported on, in a time when immunotherapeutic treatments have even been targeting cancers.

“This technique has a therapeutic value outside of allergies. It would be equally as applicable in the context of autoimmune diseases, for example, like Multiple Sclerosis.”

While this new therapy makes its way into clinical trials, Dr. Gordon looks forward to ideas for the future of respiratory research. As a translational immunologist, Dr. Gordon emphasizes the potential for cutting-edge ideas to be further developed alongside clinicians through the Respiratory Research Centre:

“Having a research center allows researchers from all backgrounds to strategize together, to share insights and to use relevant feedback to help them move forward.”

He also stresses that science is not a zero-sum game; that sharing resources and knowledge benefits everyone, and the science, overall:

“The RRC will pull together minds in a cohesive and collaborative way. This will foster better research and more rapid translation by capitalizing on the unique resources that are here at our facilities.”

With asthma affecting around 2.4 million Canadians, and food allergies affecting  1 in 13 Canadians, progress in allergy immunology has the potential to improve the quality-of-life for generations. Dr. Gordon is convinced that this progress is only possible by helping each other:

“Synergy is the way forward – utilizing everyone’s contributions has the potential to compound science outputs, moving them from good to great”

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