Professor, Department of Medicine
Web: Mark Larché's Hompage
Studying the development of peptide immunotherapy for immunological diseases.
The research may lead to the development of new treatments for immunological diseases.
Hair of the Dog: Peptide Vaccines at Work
There is an epidemic of chronic immunological diseases in the industrialized world. These diseases are characterized by an exaggerated immune response. In the case of allergies, the response is to harmless environmental substances—such as grass pollen and house-dust mites. In the case of certain autoimmune diseases, such as Type II diabetes, the reaction is to proteins in the patient’s own body. In both cases, the costs are enormous.
While the exact reasons behind the epidemic remain only partially defined, it is clear that we need to find ways to combat it. And that’s where the work of Canada Research Chair in Allergy and Immune Tolerance Mark Larché comes in.
Larché uses synthetic fragments (peptides) of the proteins that cause the disease (pollen, dust mites) to "switch on" the immune responses. Because the peptides lack the structure of the whole proteins, they don’t stimulate an allergic reaction themselves—but they do trigger the immune system to begin to defend the body. This helps to minimize that body’s subsequent allergic reactions.
In his current research, Larché has singled out asthma as the perfect model to study these mechanisms, because asthmatics respond swiftly to their triggers, and the responses can be measured easily. His research into asthma includes a study of the pathway that links the "switching on" of the immune response with the symptoms of asthma (such as constriction of the airways), as well as the process of identifying the biomarkers that will help the diagnosis and treatment of asthma, and the screening of anti-asthma drugs. In the long run, Larché hopes his research will lead to the production of peptide vaccines for the treatment of a wide range of chronic immune diseases.