A study led by Thomas Illig, MD, PhD, head of the working group of Molecular Epidemiology at the GSF National Research Centre for Environment and Health in Neuherberg, near Munich, has discovered an important genetic marker, ORMDL3, which could help improve the prevention and diagnosis of asthma, and possibly lead to  a new therapy.

In Germany, one child in 10 has asthma, with no hope for cure. The research team has been able to identify a key component in the complex interaction of genetic and environmental factors that lead to asthma.  The study focused on about 2,300 adults, half of whom had suffered from asthma since childhood. The comparison of their genetic data with those of their healthier contemporaries showed that several genetic variations clearly raise the risk of asthma in infancy.

Above all, the expression of the gene ORMDL3 was influenced by these variations. Significant associations must be examined in so-called replication studies of further case-control groups, according to the investigators. “Therefore, in the Genome Analysis Centre of GSF, we have analysed an asthma population that was recruited by Dr. Michael Kabesch, and, in this way, we could confirm the previous results,” reports Illig.

The asthma study is promoted in Germany by the National Genome Research Network (NGFN) and was carried out within the scope of the EU-financed GABRIEL project to decipher the causes of asthma.