Understanding Asthma

Is Asthma Genetic?

Researchers in the medical community have spent decades trying to understand the nature of asthma. One of the many aspects of this study includes the search for an answer as to whether or not asthma is genetic. Many different links and risk factors have been identified, including family history, the presence of allergies and other factors. To date, most of these theories have shown to be relatively sound, but a recent study took a substantial step towards identifying whether or not a single gene or group of genes are responsible for the development of the disease.


The Study

In 2004, researchers led by a Brigham and Women's Hospital/Harvard Medical School team published the results of a study entitled, "Interacting genetic loci cause airway hyperresponsiveness" and found that future research should focus on the interaction of several different genes as opposed to the mere presence of a finite number and type. The study appears online in Physiological Genomics, published by the American Physiological Society. The full text of the study can be found by clicking here.

Basically, the researchers involved in the study attempted to identify specific inherited aspects of asthma, and the team noted that, "in over 10 large human studies employing genome-wide analysis to detect asthma susceptibility loci, only two significant linkages have been detected. Of these, only one has identified an association with a specific candidate gene."

The subjects used were mice, and the study was done by identifying certain genes in the subjects and then breeding them through seven generations. Additionally, all of the groups were exposed to different types of well-known irritants/agents that have been known to trigger the development of attacks.

Generally, the researchers were looking for one group of genes to be the constant between the groups of asthmatic subjects. However, they seem to have been surprised that it was more than one group of genomes that were apparently responsible for the development of asthma and the inherent genetic predisposition.

What it all Means

Basically, the results of the study, which was labeled as 'groundbreaking' by several sources, show that the medical community needs to expand its research somewhat in terms of scope in order to begin to clearly identify the genetic disposition or dispositions that tend to lead to the development and advancement of asthma in humans. While this study did not clearly identify genetics that definitively lead to asthma, a foundational formula was discovered, thereby making more advanced research and the pursuit of prevention and perhaps even a cure more possible than before the study was done.