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LJI develops new approach to identify genes poised to respond in asthma patients
Date:7/8/2014

SAN DIEGO July 8, 2014 In a study published yesterday in the scientific journal Nature Immunology, a group at the La Jolla Institute (LJI) led by Pandurangan Vijayanand, Ph.D. identify new genes that likely contribute to asthma, a disease that currently affects over 200 million people world wide.

An organism's genetic material, also known as its genome, can be divided into small sections or 'neighborhoods.' Scientists can determine which genetic neighborhoods in a cell are active, or primed for gene production, by looking for a marker on the genome called an enhancer. An enhancer can increase the production of genes in its immediate neighborhood. The goal of the published study is to find genes whose neighborhoods are active in diseased cells, but inactive in healthy cells. Genes that are in active neighborhoods in diseased cells are likely to contribute to disease, and can potentially be targeted with drug treatments.

In order to find genetic neighborhoods that are active in asthmatic disease, the scientists in Vijayanand's group focus their experiments on memory cells, which develop abnormally in asthma patients. Memory cells are responsible for quickly responding to foreign substances called antigens that the host has been exposed to previously. Air passage inflammation, which characterizes asthma, is mediated by an overactive response to inhaled antigens by memory cells.

By applying his technique in small populations of abnormal memory cells, Vijayanand highlights 33 genetic neighborhoods that are highly active in diseased cells, but inactive in healthy cells, shifting the focus of asthma research to specific genes that are located in these neighborhoods.

Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that are less precise, have previously identified 1,500 potential target regions associated with asthmatic disease. According to Vijayanand, these targets are too numerous to study individually, and as a result, the fiel
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Contact: Daniel Moyer
dmoyer@liai.org
858-752-6535
La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology
Source:Eurekalert

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