SNPwatch gives you the latest news about research linking various traits and conditions to individual genetic variations. These studies are exciting because they offer a glimpse into how genetics may affect our bodies and health; but in most cases, more work is needed before this research can provide information of value to individuals. For that reason it is important to remember that like all information we provide, the studies we describe in SNPwatch are for research and educational purposes only. SNPwatch is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice; you should always seek the advice of your physician or other appropriate healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding diagnosis, cure, treatment or prevention of any disease or other medical condition.
New England Journal of Medicine, a group of researchers from a large consortium of asthma studies compared genotypes from more than 25,000 people of European ancestry (roughly 10,000 individuals with diagnosed asthma and more than 15,000 unaffected individuals) to determine potential genes involved in different asthma subtypes.Although many SNPs identified in this investigation are linked to disease risk at any age, results indicate that one gene region on chromosome 17 (represented by ) is specifically associated with childhood-onset asthma only. Even among the SNPs linked with asthma risk in general, nearly all demonstrated a stronger effect in childhood rather than later-onset disease. Data did not reveal any genetic influence contributing uniquely to asthma severity or development risk from workplace exposure. The authors also investigated whether SNPs associated with asthma risk corresponded to SNPs known to regulate allergy sensitivity since the two conditions are often linked. Results suggest very little overlap between these two sets of SNPs, leading the authors to speculate that allergy sensitivity is an effect of asthma rather than its cause.Many of the SNPs identified in this paper are located in genes associated with the immune system’s communication network. Just like human armies, the cellular infantry of your immune system sends messages to coordinate its attack on harmful invaders. The genes implicated in this study act to communicate alarm signals from damaged airway tissue to immune cells, triggering the airway inflammatory response often associated with an asthmatic attack. This insight into the genetic culprits underlying the development of asthma may help reveal new targets for therapeutic intervention.