The genetics associated with asthma have been the source of discussion and research for years. The number of genes associated with this disease continues to be discovered. What is new is what these discoveries are telling us about the presentations and potential causes of the symptoms associated with this disease.
Classification of a disease, such as asthma, can be done in several ways. For this article we can divide asthma into childhood-onset and adult-onset asthma. The differences go beyond the obvious age disparity for these two onsets. In looking at the two onsets and comparing their genetic markers, it appears that they share some genes, but not all, and this may tell us something about the things that influence their disease and symptoms.
The analysis would suggest that the childhood genes and those associated with age of onset play a part primarily in determining when symptoms begin, while the other shared genes tell us about what makes the disease progress. Simply put, the adult genes seem to indicate a greater role for environmental factors to play a role in disease progression and severity, while the childhood genes suggest a greater immunologic component. What is really interesting is that the childhood-onset specific genes support, in part, the theory that asthma in childhood is due to impaired barrier function of the skin and tissues lining the respiratory tree. Genetic research may pave the way for more specific and effective therapy for both the childhood-onset and adult-onset population of asthmatics. Stay tuned.