Scientists discover gene that could lead to targeted asthma treatment

asthmaYoung children with asthma may benefit from targeted treatment in the near future after US scientists discovered a ‘rogue’ gene – CDHR3 – which could be the cause of severe asthma in youngsters.

CDHR3 has been found to be particularly active within epithelial cells that line the inner surfaces of the airways. A faulty version of the gene can result in environmental triggers inducing allergic responses, the scientists found. CDHR3 is one of four genes that has been linked to the development of asthma; but the other three were already known as being associated with asthma.

The new study, published in the journal Nature Genetics involved a thorough comparison of the genetic codes, or genomes, of 3,695 Danish children and adults who have asthma. This comprised of a number of children younger than the age of six.

Data extracted children of both European and non-European ancestry was then used to replicate the findings, which are consistent with previous research suggesting other genes associated with the onset of childhood asthma are responsible for over-sensitive immune reactions.

Lead researcher Dr Hakon Hakonarson, from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (Chop) in the US, said: “Because asthma is a complex disease, with multiple interacting causes, we concentrated on a specific phenotype – severe, recurrent asthma occurring between ages two and six. Identifying a risk-susceptibility gene linked to this phenotype may lead to more effective, targeted treatments for this type of childhood asthma.”

Dr Hakonarson added: “Asthma researchers have been increasingly interested in the role of the airway epithelium in the development of asthma. Abnormalities in the epithelial cells may increase a patient’s risk to environmental triggers by exaggerating immune responses and making the airway overreact. Because the CDHR3 gene is related to a family of proteins involved in cell adhesion and cell-to-cell interaction, it is plausible that variations in this gene may disrupt normal functioning in these airway cells, and make a child vulnerable to asthma.”

The researchers now hope their findings will lead to a more targeted treatment a condition which affects a staggering 5.4 million Britons; many of whom will probably be struggling in the coming months due to the fact that cold winter weather can exacerbate asthma symptoms.

Even a basic cold virus can trigger a serious asthma attack and worsen symptoms for around 90% of people with asthma and According to Asthma UK, three quarters of people with asthma blame cold for triggering their symptoms. Common symptoms are: coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in your chest and difficulty speaking in full sentences.

Asthma UK have five important pieces of advice that are vital in controlling your asthma symptoms during the cold weather:

1. Keep taking your regular preventer medicines as prescribed by your doctor.

2. If you know that cold air triggers your asthma, take one or two puffs of your reliever inhaler before going outside.

3. Keep your blue reliever inhaler with you at all times.

4. Wrap up well and wear a scarf over your nose and mouth – this will help to warm up the air before you breathe it in.

5. Take extra care when exercising in cold weather. Warm up for 10–15 minutes and take one or two puffs of your reliever inhaler before you start.

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