Study identifies gene linked to asthma symptoms

LONDON, Sept 23, 1997 (Reuter News)

Australian researchers said on Tuesday they had identified a gene they believe could explain why people become asthmatic. After studying the genetic make-up of 52 asthma sufferers and 227 people without the disease the researchers in Perth, western Australia, found that a mutation of the gene CC16 was linked to the illness. At a meeting of the European Respiratory Society in Berlin they said there was a correlation between asthma symptoms and levels of protein in the gene. A mutation of CC16 inhibits the production of protein for the gene sequence and can increase the likelihood of asthma by up to seven times. ``These are very exciting findings in the battle against rising asthma incidence,'' Professor Peter Le Souef, head of the research study, said in a statement released in London. ``Identification of this gene mutation will, in time, lead to improvements in the management and control of asthma. Future research will focus more closely on the role of this gene mutation and how it can be modified to reduce or remove asthma symptoms,'' he added. Asthma, a narrowing of the airways within the lungs, afflicts 150 million people around the world. It is one of the fastest growing diseases, increasing by up to 50 percent every 10 years. Scientists believe heavier exposure to allergic dusts and environmental irritants could be one reason for the general rise in asthma rates. Although the disease, characterised by breathlessness and wheezing, can develop at any age, it often starts in childhood.


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