Date: 12 December 2018
Researchers supported by the NIHR have uncovered several new genetic variants associated with moderate-to-severe asthma that could help improve its diagnosis and treatment.
Between 10-15% of people with asthma have a severe form of the condition that does not respond to conventional treatment. Symptoms include debilitating breathlessness leading to increased hospital admissions, despite the high use of medicines.
Researchers at the NIHR Biomedical Research Centres in Nottingham and Leicester led a global team to examine genetic data from thousands of people with European ancestry who have moderate-to-severe forms of the disease.
The research involved comparing the genes of around 10,000 people with asthma to nearly 50,000 people with normal lung health. The work uncovered several new genetic variants associated with moderate-to-severe asthma and also a person’s risk of developing the condition.
In addition, the study was able to for the first time pinpoint certain genetic variants that control the production of mucins – the main components of mucus. This discovery gives new hope for better treatment of moderate-to-severe asthma condition because these genes could be targeted by new therapies.
Professor Ian Sayers from the University of Nottingham and NIHR Nottingham BRC who led the study, said: “Asthma is a fairly common but notoriously difficult disease to diagnose, treat and manage. We know environmental factors can trigger the condition but genetic predisposition, we believe, also plays a significant role. This is why genetic research is so important. If we can identify genes that cause the disease, we may eventually be able to improve treatment or even find a cure.”
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