Working with researchers from Australia’s QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, 23andMe scientists completed the first-ever genome-wide association study combining asthma and hay fever phenotypes.
The susceptibility to both asthma and hay fever are known to often run hand-in-hand. But the study published this week in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found 11 genetic variants that are associated with having both conditions.
In addition two of those variants found in the study had never before been associated with any allergic condition.
While the nine other genetic variants found in the study had been linked to different allergies in the past, this is the first time those associations were found to be associated with both asthma and hay fever.
“In this first-of-its-kind study, we’ve identified new genetic associations that can provide the means to identify people at risk for allergic disease with greater efficiency,” said David Hinds, Ph.D., study author, and 23andMe Principal Scientist in Statistical Genetics.
People with allergies tend to be allergic to multiple things. Sometimes this makes sense – being allergic to cats and dogs for instance – other times the groupings make you scratch your head. Based on our research survey data, we found that if you are allergic to one insect’s sting, it is more likely that you’ll be allergic to another. But food allergies do not appear to be associated with other kinds of allergies. You can learn more about these associations here.
About one in five American children have a respiratory allergy like hay fever, and nearly one in 10 have asthma.
While for many of us, allergic reactions are a mere annoyance, for others they can be life-threatening. We know that both environmental and genetic factors are involved in triggering asthma and allergies. But a deeper understanding of those causes will help in both identifying risks as well as potential treatments.
This new study – led by scientists at QIMR – included data from more than 15,000 23andMe customers who agreed to participate in research. The work also adds to the body of existing research already done by 23andMe on allergies and asthma.
Last year, 23andMe researchers and scientists from the University of Bristol’s Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) in the UK, completed the largest genome-wide association study ever conducted on common allergies. That study included data from more than 53,000 people. It also found new genetic associations for the conditions. The study added to our knowledge of the genetic link between common allergens and a person’s susceptibility to experiencing an allergic reaction
Researchers hope that these studies will improve their ability to detect genetic risk factors for allergies and asthma. In turn, this information can also shed more light on the biological underpinnings for the conditions.