Researchers at University of Aberdeen (UK) will look at how airway cells at birth are linked to asthma symptoms in the preschool years in a bid to identify what factors ‘activate’ asthma in those already predisposed to the condition.

Around 1,000 mothers from five centres in the UK are being asked to get involved, including 200 in Aberdeen, whether they have asthma or not. The team believe something happens pre-birth which predisposes new-born babies to have airway cells that respond poorly.

They also believe something occurs after birth which leads to around half of the children with poor performing airway cells to develop asthma, whilst the other half do not. The focus of the study is to identify what factor or factors contribute to the development of asthma in these children.

The study will see cells swabbed from 1,000 new-born babies and will be carried out in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh, the University of Southampton, Imperial College London and Queen Mary University of London. Follow ups will be carried out with the same children up until they reach four years old.

“Something is happening pre-birth which predisposes them to being susceptible to asthma and then something else occurs after birth which results in them developing asthmatic symptoms. In other words, having these poor responding nose cells puts the bullet in the gun, but doesn’t pull the trigger. We can’t stop the bullet going in the gun but we can maybe look at what it is that pulls the trigger,” said Dr Steve Turner.