Last updated on April 16, 2014 at 13:10 EDT

New Genetic Variants = Treatment for Asthma

September 12, 2011

(Ivanhoe Newswire)— According to the CDC, the number of people living with asthma in the U.S Grew by 4.3 million from the years 2001 to 2009. That means 1 in 12 individuals are suffering from this disease and the numbers continue to rise. However, a new study may lead to help for the many people who are living with asthma.

Although asthma is a common disease amongst many, the actual causes of asthma remain a mystery. Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) have recently identified some genes that have moderate effects on the risk of asthma, but these genes only explain a small portion of the disease´s makeup, which suggests that there are many more genetic variations involved that have not been identified yet.

An international team of researchers led by Manuel Ferreira from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, Australia have recently conducted a study to find new genetic variations that are responsible for increasing the risk of asthma by combining and interacting with existing asthma GWAS.

The team compared the genomes of thousands of patients with asthma with a diverse group of non-asthmatics. Researchers discovered two new genetic variants that posed strong asthma risks; rs4129267 in the interleukin-6 receptor (IL6R) and rs7130588 on chromosome 11q13.5.

Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is a cytokine that plays an important role in immunity and inflammation; the new discoveries suggest that drugs that block these particular types of receptors should be considered for clinical trials to prevent or reduce airway inflammation that is associated with asthma.  The other variant rs7130588, on chromosome 11q13.5, was found to be more common in allergic asthma patients. This suggests that there is a gene in this chromosome region that plays a role in the development of allergic sensitization, which can increase the risk of getting allergic asthma.

“At this stage it is unclear which gene underlies the association with 11q13.5. Given that no specific gene in this region has been directly implicated in allergic disease previously, further characterization of this region of association is likely to discover novel molecular mechanisms involved in the causality of eczema, atopy, and asthma.” The authors were quoted saying.

As of now, there is no specific gene that can be held totally responsible for the cause of asthma. The results from this study confirm that asthma is indeed a complex disease that consists of many genes of small effects that combine and interact together to elevate the risks of developing asthma.

“Our results are consistent with the contributions of hundreds or potentially thousands of variants with weak effects on asthma risk, which can be identified through larger GWAS as already shown with other diseases.” The authors were quoted saying.

SOURCE: The Lancet