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UBC Contributes to International Hunt for Asthma Genes

By January 5, 2018No Comments

The world’s largest genetic study on asthma has identified five new genes associated with the condition and produced the most comprehensive list of genes and gene locations involved in the development of asthma and allergic disease.

These research results open the door to future studies, improved diagnostics and new treatment options, says Denise Daley, an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine who led the Canadian arm of the international collaboration.

“Previously, only 21 genes had been found to be associated with asthma across roughly 20 studies, and they explained only part of the genetic risk for the condition,” says Dr. Daley, who is based at the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation. “Thanks to this global collaboration, we have brought together data from more than 140,000 individuals of diverse ancestries, allowing us to develop a much fuller picture of how genetics influences asthma across different populations.”

The study, published today in Nature Genetics, analyzed data from individuals of European, African, Japanese, and Latino ancestry, and identified five new asthma genes; confirmed nine known asthma genes; uncovered additional associations for two known asthma genes; and established asthma associations for two genes known to affect asthma plus hay fever.

The Canadian team, supported by AllerGen NCE Inc., was part of the Transnational Asthma Genetics Consortium (TAGC) — an international collaboration that analyzed 65 studies from around the world searching for clues to determine which genes contribute to an increased risk of asthma. These findings have resulted in the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the genetic variants that increase an individual’s susceptibility to asthma.

“Asthma risk is influenced by genes and the environment,” Dr. Daley adds. “The TAGC discoveries are robust across populations and environmental exposures, which will help scientists to categorize subtypes of asthma, identify pathways for possible therapeutic interventions, and open new routes for future asthma research. We are delighted to have led Canada’s contribution to this global initiative.”

AllerGen NCE Inc., the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network (est. 2004), is a national research network dedicated to improving the quality of life of people suffering from allergic and related immune diseases. AllerGen investigators Dr. Allan Becker (University of Manitoba); Dr. Anita Kozyrskyj (University of Alberta); and Dr. Catherine Laprise (Université du Québec à Chicoutimi) were also members of the Canadian research team.