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European Researchers Find Genes Tied to Asthma
Date:9/23/2010

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 22 (HealthDay News) -- European scientists have identified genes that predispose children and adults to asthma.

Some of the genes tell the immune system when the lining of the airways has been damaged. Others may control healing of the airways after they have been injured, the researchers said.

"But the genes are different genes for children than for adults," said study coauthor Dr. Erika von Mutius, a professor of pediatrics at University Children's Hospital in Munich, Germany.

"However, even if we have been able to identify a number of these genes, we cannot predict disease just based on these genes because other factors, including environmental factors, are important as well," she added. "The genes do not explain everything."

The report is published in the Sept. 23 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

For the GABRIEL study, von Mutius and colleagues from London, Paris, Munich and Oxford looked at genes from 10,365 asthmatics and compared them with the genes of 16,110 people without asthma.

After looking at all the genes in these individuals, the researchers found some new genes that predispose people to asthma. Among adults, the effect of genes in the development of asthma was weaker than in children.

Among children, the most important gene linked to asthma is called ORMDL3/GSDMB, and is not involved in adults who develop asthma, von Mutius and colleagues found.

These newly identified gene variants affected more than one-third of children with asthma. In addition, these genes had strong effects on severe asthma, the study authors noted.

However, despite these findings, genetic testing would be of no value in predicting early in life which children might eventually develop asthma, because environmental factors are also important for asthma to develop, von Mutius said.

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