Asthma, Genetics, and the Environment

Courtesy of Eric Erbe and Chris Pooley, ARS Image Gallery  SPRING CLEANING TARGETS: Tyrophagus putrescentiae, better known as dust mites, are microscopic, sightless, eight-legged arthropods that are natural inhabitants of indoor environments. Their droppings are the most common trigger of perennial allergy and asthma symptoms. Asthma is a classic example of gene-environment interaction. A host of environmental triggers, from cigarette smoke to cockroaches, can set it off. A dozen or so g

Karen Young Kreeger
Apr 6, 2003
Courtesy of Eric Erbe and Chris Pooley, ARS Image Gallery
 SPRING CLEANING TARGETS: Tyrophagus putrescentiae, better known as dust mites, are microscopic, sightless, eight-legged arthropods that are natural inhabitants of indoor environments. Their droppings are the most common trigger of perennial allergy and asthma symptoms.

Asthma is a classic example of gene-environment interaction. A host of environmental triggers, from cigarette smoke to cockroaches, can set it off. A dozen or so genes for various molecules, including cytokines, have been implicated in asthma and related disorders such as eczema. The question is: How do these environmental triggers and the disease-implicated genes communicate?

It's a question quite a few want to answer. Researchers are using genetic screens and positional cloning, and some are looking at the evolution of allergens. One group of collaborators found multiple polymorphisms in the gene ADAM33--a discovery that raises even more questions. In Finland, researchers conducted a...