Hi guys! I’m sure that this week’s topic will hit pretty close to home for most of you- asthma. As someone who suffers from asthma, when I first read this report from Duke, I wanted to talk about it.
It all starts out with those who have more genetic risks for asthma. These people are not only more likely to develop asthma at a very young age, but they are also more likely to continue to suffer from asthma throughout their entire life. Thanks to new results from a 40-year longitudinal study reported by Duke University, researchers have been able to study how genetics relate to one’s life course of asthma.
In the past, studies have linked a handful of genes to minute increases in asthma risk. The researchers at Duke, and others, wanted to know whether those risks actually add up. They chose to look at the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study, a study of 1,037 individuals who have been tracked since their birth in Dunedin, New Zealand during a 12-month period from 1972-1973. If that number alone doesn’t daunt you, read what happened next.
The team calculated a “genetic risk score” for each of the individuals in the Dunedin study by adding up the number of risk variants each of them carried in their genes. They then interviewed as to whether those scores correlated to the development of their asthma from early childhood through their midlives.
And yes, in fact, they did correlate. Those who have higher genetic risk variants developed asthma earlier in life and remained asthmatic longer than did those with lower risk levels. Higher risk individuals also more often had allergic reactions associated with severe and persistent asthma and developed problems with lung function.
There is still a long way to go before genetic risk scores, like those done in this study, can be used in routine medical practice. However, until then the data found could lead to a better understanding of the biology of asthma and advance research to devise new treatment and prevention strategies, which for me, and the approximately 26 million other people who suffer from asthma in the US alone, sounds amazing! The numbers of asthmatics grow every year at a cost of billions of dollars; so, the sooner we get a real grasp on this situation, the better!