Genetic determinants of Asthma and Allergy

Coordinator:    Prof. Dr. Michael Kabesch
Institution: Medizinische Hochschule Hannover. Klinik für Pneumologie und Neonatologie
Asthma and allergies are some of the most frequent chronic diseases worldwide. In Germany more than 10% of all children suffer from asthma and more than 30% of the population show the susceptibility for allergies. It had been speculated for a long time that asthma and allergies have a genetic component. A number of genes that had been suspected to contribute to disease development in immunological studies of asthma and allergy had been investigated in genetic studies of recent years. Some of these genes were identified to contribute minor effects to asthma and allergy risk.

Only recent technological advances and cooperation on the European level generated major breakthroughs since 2007: Genome wide association analysis using hundreds of thousand genetic markers across the genome on so called DNA chips identified some of the major risk factors for asthma and allergy.

In cooperation with national and international experts we now find out which genes contribute significantly to asthma risk and which mechanisms are involved. Only through this research it will be possible to estimate the potential benefit of recent gene discoveries in the diagnosis, therapy and prevention of asthma and allergy.

Furthermore, it is surprising that genetic factors contributing to asthma risk are also involved in the development of other common diseases. E.g., genetic factors strongly influencing childhood asthma risk from chromosome 17 associated with the expression of ORMDL3 also increase the risk for inflammatory bowel disease. Novel and unexpected results like that challenge our current understanding of many diseases and disease mechanisms and will help to reshape medicine of the 21st century.

In this project we also try to translate and transfer new insight steaming from genetic research into progress and benefits for the individual patient. As allergies often start in childhood and increase worldwide, this is an important investment into the future.

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