Development of a hierarchical algorithm to investigate the role of long non coding RNA regions in the etiology of asthma

Asthma is a complex disease caused by a combination of genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors.

Although several studies have attempted to identify the specific genes associated with asthma, the underlying genetic mechanisms are still unclear. Genomic imprinting, an epigenetic phenomenon that occurs early in life whereby only one gene copy is active and the other  parental copy is fully methylated and hence inactive (“parent-of-origin effects”), may be involved.

I performed the analysis of the first large-scale genome-wide association study (GWAS) of parent-of-origin effects in asthma on data collected from three Canadian family-based studies/cohorts. Preliminary results strongly suggest the involvement of long non-coding (lnc) RNA.

lncRNAs are known to be involved in genomic imprinting. I hypothesize that lncRNAs identified from the parent-of-origin effects in asthma are involved in imprinting.

Due to their length and low information density, lncRNA regions are very time- and cost intensive to confirm and study. I will develop a hierarchical algorithm that will automate the selection of lncRNA regions and specific sites to investigate for DNA methylation.

The ability to select important lncRNA regions in an efficient and automated manner will result in increased efficiency for researchers, and will save time, materials and personnel costs. The selection algorithm will be added to our collection of web-based tools on the Genapha website and will be widely used by researchers interested in genomic regulation.