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New findings on genes behind asthma attacks

An international team spearheaded by researchers from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen have identified the genes that put some children at risk of experiencing severe asthma attacks.

“Our results show that asthma attacks requiring young children to be hospitalised are usually genetically related. Genes play a far greater role in children with asthma than in adults. By screening children’s DNA we’ve discovered that a gene called CDHR3, which was previously unassociated with the disease, plays a key role for the development of asthma, particularly in the very early years of life. Our study supports the theory that asthma is not just a single disease, but a complex of several sub-types that should be genetically mapped and understood individually if we are to prevent and treat the disease properly in future,” says Klaus Bønnelykke, MD, PhD. He works for the Copenhagen Studies of Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC), the Danish Pediatric Asthma Center, Copenhagen University Hospital.

The study was headed by Klaus Bønnelykke and his colleague Hans Bisgaard, Professor of Paediatrics at the University of Copenhagen, chief physician of the Copenhagen Studies of Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC) and head of the Danish Paediatric Asthma Center. The study was conducted in collaboration with various research groups, including the Danish Centre for Neonatal Screening, Statens Serum Institut, Copenhagen, and Center for Biological Sequence Analysis (CBS), Technical University of Denmark as well as research teams in the USA, Spain, the UK and the Netherlands.

The study was based on examinations of 1,200 Danish children hospitalised for asthma and 2,500 healthy individuals. Two- to six-year-old children who had been hospitalised at least twice were identified in the hospital records. Their DNA was then screened for risk genes, and subsequent studies of children from Denmark and abroad confirmed the discovery of a new risk gene (CDHR3). The results have been published in the scientific journal Nature Genetics.

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