AURORA, Colo. – Researchers in the
United Kingdom, the United States, Sweden and Canada report in Nature
that they have discovered more than 30 genes that have strong effects on
Immunoglobulin E (IgE), allergies and asthma.
IgE is the antibody that triggers allergic responses.
Among the genes are promising novel drug targets for treating allergies and
asthma. Allergies affect 30 percent of the population and 10 percent of
children suffer from asthma.
The researchers also found that the genes are
concentrated in eosinophils, a white cell that ignites inflammation in
asthmatic airways. The genes indicate when the eosinophils are activated and
primed to cause the most damage. The newly found activation signals provide a
possible means of directing treatments by predicting who will respond before
David Schwartz, MD, chairman of the Department of
Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz
Medical Campus, is one of the team of researchers who contributed to the
report, published Feb. 18 in Nature. Ivana Yang, PhD, associate
professor of medicine the School of Medicine, also contributed to the report.
The research team used a novel technique to discover
these genes, known as an “epigenome wide association study (EWAS).” Epigenetic
changes to DNA do not alter the underlying sequence of the genetic code but can
still be passed on as cells divide. They program the cells to form specialized
types and tissues.
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