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Proc Am Thorac Soc. 2011 May;8(2):143-8. doi: 10.1513/pats.201103-030MS.

Genetic studies of the etiology of asthma.

Author information

1
The Johns Hopkins Asthma & Allergy Center, Baltimore, MD 21224, USA. kbarnes@jhmi.edu

Abstract

Asthma is a heterogeneous disease for which a strong genetic basis is firmly established. Although the generally accepted definition includes three domains of symptoms (variable airway obstruction, airway hyper-responsiveness, and airway inflammation), there is general agreement that, rather than being a single disease entity, asthma consists of related, overlapping syndromes. A considerable proportion of asthma is IgE-mediated, but the observation that not all individuals with asthma are atopic adds to the heterogeneity. Although a genetic basis for asthma is undeniable, elucidation of polymorphisms that are "causal" is greatly hampered by variability in the clinical phenotype, which is likely due to the multiple molecular mechanisms underlying the complex pathological processes involved in disease development and progression. One objective of this review is to consider progress that has been made to date in gene discovery in the field of asthma, with a focus on the evolution of molecular genetic methods that have led to the discoveries thus far, and with a particular focus on the major advances owed to the published genome-wide association studies (GWAS) on asthma to date. A second objective is to consider a Darwinian approach toward understanding the genetic underpinnings of asthma, including evidence supporting a modified Hygiene Hypothesis, which suggests that there are co-associations between asthma risk polymorphisms and polymorphisms associated with another IgE-mediated disease, schistosomiasis. The overall conclusion is that the huge research efforts and expense committed to asthma genetics have changed the perception about disease etiology in general and the functional relevance of the asthma genes identified thus far in particular.

PMID:
21543791
PMCID:
PMC3131830
DOI:
10.1513/pats.201103-030MS
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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