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Asthma: On the trail of the risk genes.
(09/25/2010) In a comprehensive asthma study, an international team of researchers examined the genes of around 26,000 people, with the result that environmental factors probably play a greater role in the development of asthma than different variants in the genome. The study also raises doubts about the thesis that the genesis of bronchial asthma is favored by allergic reactions.
As part of their study, the researchers examined 10,000 children and adults with asthma and 16,000 healthy people. They were able to identify six genetic risk variants that play a role in the development of asthma. But their influence is not as strong as previously thought. Because only about 38 percent of asthma occurring in children can be explained with one of these genetic variants, emphasizes Erika von Mutius from the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, which also participated in the studies. The study that is now published in the "New England Journal of Medicine" is once again focusing more closely on the importance of environmental factors in the development of asthma.
In addition, the researchers found that asthma and allergies are likely to be subject to different development mechanisms, contrary to what was previously thought. Genetic variants that influence the formation of IgE antibodies were expected. However, the current results point in a different direction. The six discovered gene variants (SNP) are predominantly involved in the inflammatory reaction and, for example, significantly influence the formation or effect of interleukins. This suggests that allergies are not the cause but the result of an asthma, according to the researchers. Miriam Moffatt from Imperial College London, one of the lead authors of the study, also suspects that the inflammatory reaction in asthma only lays the foundation for a later allergic hypersensitization. The researchers also suspect that asthma in children and the form of asthma in adults could be two fundamentally different diseases, because both were associated with different gene variants in the study.
Around a hundred million people worldwide have bronchial asthma, with the number of patients increasing significantly in the past two decades. According to the Helmholtz Zentrum, around five to ten percent of the population in Germany suffers from asthma. Even if not all asthma diseases can be explained by the risk gene variants, the current research results offer a good starting point for the development of new drugs and therapies, whereby in the future research should focus more on the genetic requirements. (fp)
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