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Genes cast doubt on asthma allergy link

Thursday September 23rd, 2010

Allergy is less important as a cause of asthma than is often thought, according to researchers who published a major analysis of genes behind the disease last night.

The research, partly conducted at Imperial College London, also identifies childhood asthma as a biologically different disease from the adult version.

The researchers named seven locations where asthma genes can be found after studying the DNA of some 26,000 people - and conducting some 13 billion genetic tests.

And they say their findings suggest genetic testing will play little part in predicting who develops the disease.

The findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers say that if allergy was a major cause of asthma they would have expected to find genes involved that stimulate the immune system in allergic reactions. This was not the case - and, they say, it is more likely that many of the allergies linked to the disease are caused by it.

Researcher Professor Miriam Moffatt, of Imperial College London, said: "As a result of genetic studies we now know that allergies may develop as a result of defects of the lining of the airways in asthma. This does not mean that allergies are not important, but it does mean that concentrating therapies only on allergy will not effectively treat the whole disease."

Fellow researcher Professor William Cookson said: "Asthma is a complex disease in which many different parts of the immune system can become activated.

"Our study now highlights targets for effective asthma therapies, and suggests that therapies against these targets will be of use to large numbers of asthmatics in the population."

M.F. Moffatt et al. A large-scale, consortium-based genome-wide association study of asthma. New England Journal of Medicine, September 22 2010.

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Child Health | Genetics | UK News

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