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Research breakthrough identifies 291 genes associated with asthma

CINCINNATI -- In one of the most significant breakthroughs in allergic diseases research in recent years, an international group of scientists led by researchers at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center have discovered 291 genes associated with asthma. The Cincinnati Children's scientists used gene chip analysis to identify these genes they refer to as "asthma signature genes," and they discovered a new and promising pathway involving one particular gene, arginase, to target for drug development.

Prior to this study, which is published in the July issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, scientists thought that only a dozen or so genes were implicated in asthma. The discovery that asthma involves the interplay of 291 genes "has tremendous therapeutic and diagnostic implications," says Marc Rothenberg, MD, PhD, director of Allergy and Immunology at Cincinnati Children's and the study's senior author.

"Each gene may represent a target for drug development," says Dr. Rothenberg. "But one gene in particular, arginase, regulates pathways that we think are critical in an asthmatic reaction. Regardless of the specific allergen, arginase seems to be involved. We hope to come up with a treatment for asthma by targeting arginase."

The study, which involved scientists in the United States, Canada and Australia, capitalized on both the human and mouse genome projects. Dr. Rothenberg and lead authors Nives Zimmermann, MD, and Nina King, MD, PhD, took lung tissue from mice with experimental models of asthma induced by different allergens. After analyzing the tissue with DNA microarrays, also known as gene chips, they discovered that the expression of 6.5 percent of the mouse genome was altered in an asthmatic lung.

"The identification of a series of asthma signature genes provides an unprecedented opportunity to fully understand the exact processes involved in asthma and other allergic diseases," says Dr. Rothenberg. "The
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Contact: Jim Feuer
jim.feuer@cchmc.org
513-636-4656
Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center
15-Jun-2003


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