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  • New study to shed light on asthma genes

    Author: AAP

Scientists hope a study of the genes of children with dust mite allergies will shed new light on the causes of asthma.

A group of children with dust mite allergies are having their genes examined by scientists to see why some develop asthma.

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The pilot study of 60 children, mostly teenagers, in Perth is being carried out in the hope that scientists can identify more genes that cause asthma.

While each of the children suffer from dust mite allergies, only half have the debilitating condition that affects the airways of one in 10 Australians.

The study's lead researcher Dr Anthony Bosco, of the Telethon Kids Institute, says allergies are a major cause of asthma.


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"But we think there must be something wrong with people with asthma because people with allergies don't always have asthma," he told AAP.

"The idea of the study is to tease that apart."

During the study, children will donate blood samples to undergo a high-tech analysis known as next generation sequencing.

Allergens taken from ground-up dust mites will be added to the blood samples so scientists can examine how the children's immune cells react.

The scientists expect genes within the immune cells of the asthmatics will become "hyperactive", allowing them to identify any common genes among those children.

Dr Bosco said while several genes are already known to contribute to asthma, scientists believe there are more to be discovered.

To complicate matters, scientists also believe different genes cause asthma in different people.

"There's no one single gene, but there's potentially hundreds," Dr Bosco said.

"We have found some but not all of them.

"We need a complete picture of asthma in order to treat it."

If the study uncovers any new genes that could be linked to asthma, they could help doctors predict who might develop asthma.

Pharmaceutical companies may also be able to use the genes to develop new treatments.

The study, which is being funded by biotech Sun Biomedical, will start in January and run for a year.

Copyright AAP 2014


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