The Genetics of Asthma, Atopy and Allergic Diseases

My research focuses on trying to identify why some children get asthma and others do not. By identifing specific environmental and genetic risk factors and determining how they work together to predispose children to developing asthma and other allergic diseases we can design better treatments. Studies have found a 1-in-5 risk of developing asthma if one parent has asthma. The odds rise to 2 out of 3 if both parents have asthma. However, in itself, a genetic predisposition does not ensure that asthma will develop. Asthma and allergic disease are the result of both genetics and the environment. The interaction between a genetic disposition and environmental factors is key in the development of – or in protecting against- asthma. I will use information from 250 French Canadian Asthma Families and two additional birth cohorts, and information from the town of Busselton Australia in my research. Home visits were conducted for all the families and children to collect information on environmental factors such as family history, number of children, parental occupations, daycare, pets, dust samples, infections, hospitalizations and medication usage. After reviewing the literature we have found 162 genes which may predispose children to developing asthma and we will be looking at these genes in conjuction with other environmental factors to try and better understand why some children develop asthma and others do not. Using statistical models we will look at what genetic and environment factors best explain why some children develop asthma and others do not. We will then do further laboratory experiments to try and identify these factors work together.