Asthma breakthrough may lead to improved treatment

Scientists have discovered a gene involved in the development of asthma, a finding that promises to lead to better treatment and understanding of the respiratory disorder.

A team of medical geneticists led by Professor William Cookson, of Oxford University, announced the discovery of an asthma gene at the weekend after six years of intensive investigation involving more than 20 doctors.

The gene appears to be involved in regulating white blood cells which produce the key antibody that plays a role in triggering the extreme allergies implicated in asthma and childhood eczema, a skin disorder.

"Finding the new gene adds a new dimension to understanding asthma and allergic diseases, but the understanding is still incomplete," Professor Cookson said.

There are about 10 genetic traits that are known to play a role in predisposing someone to asthma and about half of these genes have been identified.

The latest gene, called PhF11, is located on chromosome 13, which has been known for many years to contain a gene for asthma. Its discovery, published in the journal Nature Genetics, may lead to better classification of the disease and to new treatments, Professor Cookson said. "It is very likely that all the important genes will be found in the next three years. Even without knowing all the genes involved in asthma, our ideas about the causes of the disease are changing and we are seeing new ways to treat the illness," the professor said.

Asthma has been one of the fastest-growing disorders in Britain, affecting one in seven children. Worldwide, about 155 million people have been diagnosed with the respiratory disorder. Although environmental factors, such as house-dust mites, are linked with asthma, there is also a strong genetic component, with some people being innately more susceptible than others.

By studying the role of genes in asthma, scientists hope to understand the factors that trigger the disease and how to treat the symptoms at a more fundamental level.

Professor Cookson said that different variations of certain genes were usually associated with severe asthma in adults but added that the PhF11 gene might be involved in milder forms of asthma and eczema in children.

One possible goal for new forms of treatment could be to develop drugs that could turn off the genetic "switches" involved in the production of the immunoglobin E (IgE) antibody, which is heavily implicated in many allergic reactions, including asthmatic attacks. "The challenge of translating genetic findings into new treatments is, however, not trivial and will not be accomplished overnight," Professor Cookson said. "This type of genetic research is expensive and laborious and takes years of work."

When scientists first began to locate the genetic traits for asthma more than a decade ago, commentators suggested that their work would lead to a cure for asthma within five years, a prediction that has proved optimistic.

Donna Covey, representing the National Asthma Campaign, which funded the study with the Wellcome Trust, said that genetics was making an impact on the understanding of the respiratory disorder.

"We already know that developing asthma depends on the balance of genetic factors and environmental factors to which they are exposed," Ms Covey said.

ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: C# Developer - Kent - £43,000

    £35000 - £43000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: C# and .Net Developer - n...

    Guru Careers: Digital Marketing Exec / Online Marketing Executive

    £35 - 40k: Guru Careers: Our client has a new role for a Digital Marketing Exe...

    Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

    £35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

    Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'