Asthma, hay fever and eczema share more than 100 genetic risk factors
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have contributed to a major international study in Nature Genetics that has identified more than 100 genetic risk factors for asthma, hay fever and eczema which explain why these conditions often coexist.
Asthma, hay fever and eczema are allergic conditions that affect different parts of the body: the lung, the nose and the skin. Previous studies have shown that the three conditions share many genetic risk factors, but it has not been known exactly where in the genome those shared genetic risk factors are located.
The new international study, led by researchers at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Australia, aimed to determine which genes are involved in all three conditions by looking at data from the Swedish Twin Registry and analysing the genomes of more than 360,000 individuals.
The researchers pinpointed 136 separate positions in the genome that are risk factors for developing these conditions by influencing whether nearby genes are switched on or off. They believe that these genes in turn influence the risk of asthma, hay fever and eczema by affecting how the cells of the immune system work.
Environmental factors affect the genes
The study also found that environmental factors affect whether many of these genes are switched on or off. For example, the researchers found one gene that is more likely to be switched off in people who smoke. When the gene is switched off, the risk of developing allergies increases.
The mapping of genetic risk factors helps us understand why asthma, hay fever and eczema often coexist and provides new clues on how these conditions can be prevented or treated, according to co-author Catarina Almqvist Malmros, Professor at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics.
The study involved collaborators from Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the UK and the US and was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), The Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation, among others.
This news article is based on a press release from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.
“Shared genetic origin of asthma, hay fever and eczema elucidates allergic disease biology”
Manuel A Ferreira , Judith M Vonk, Hansjörg Baurecht, Ingo Marenholz, Chao Tian, Joshua D Hoffman, Quinta Helmer, Annika Tillander, Vilhelmina Ullemar, Jenny van Dongen, Yi Lu, Franz Rüschendorf, Jorge Esparza-Gordillo, Chris W Medway, Edward Mountjoy, Kimberley Burrows, Oliver Hummel, Sarah Grosche, Ben M Brumpton, John S Witte, Jouke-Jan Hottenga, Gonneke Willemsen, Jie Zheng, Elke Rodríguez, Melanie Hotze, Andre Franke, Joana A Revez, Jonathan Beesley, Melanie C Matheson, Shyamali C Dharmage, Lisa M Bain, Lars G Fritsche, Maiken E Gabrielsen, Brunilda Balliu, The 23andMe Research Team, AAGC collaborators, BIOS consortium, LifeLines Cohort Study, Jonas B Nielsen, Wei Zhou, Kristian Hveem, Arnulf Langhammer, Oddgeir L Holmen, Mari Løset, Gonçalo R Abecasis, Cristen J Willer, Andreas Arnold, Georg Homuth, Carsten O Schmidt, Philip J Thompson, Nicholas G Martin, David L Duffy, Natalija Novak, Holger Schulz, Stefan Karrasch, Christian Gieger, Konstantin Strauch, Ronald B Melles, David A Hinds, Norbert Hübner, Stephan Weidinger, Patrik K E Magnusson, Rick Jansen, Eric Jorgenson, Young-Ae Lee, Dorret I Boomsma, Catarina Almqvist, Robert Karlsson, Gerard H Koppelman & Lavinia Paternoster.
Nature Genetics, online 30 October 2017, doi:10.1038/ng.3985