Study lays down genetic basis for sinus disease and nasal polyps

In a three-year analysis of more than 10,500 genes, one-third of the human genome, researchers at Johns Hopkins have found a starting point to establishing the genetic basis for sinus disease and the growth of nasal polyps, illnesses not well understood despite their prevalence. The findings, set for publication in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology online Oct. 8, could lead to development of targeted gene therapies or other treatments to control these conditions.

"This was a fishing expedition of sorts for sinusitis research, and a nontraditional approach from a scientific standpoint," said study lead author and otolaryngologist Jean Kim, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "The result was a host of very interesting leads as to which genes may play a role in controlling this illness and how we might prevent it in the future.

"There is no cure for chronic sinusitis and nasal polyps. The symptoms associated with this condition, such as facial pain and postnasal drip, are much more incapacitating to the patient than a common cold," added Kim. "One of the most common treatments is surgery to remove swollen tissue and nasal polyps, but soon after we cut them out, the polyps usually keep growing back and symptoms return. This also happens after treatment stops with other medications, such as oral or nasal steroids."

The National Health Interview Survey by the Centers for Disease Control estimated that approximately 15 percent of the American adult population suffers from sinusitis, the most common respiratory complaint in the United States. Nearly 20 percent of patients with chronic sinusitis develop nasal polyps. These conditions can have serious health consequences: swelling of the tissues within the sinus cavity which, in turn, results in the loss of sense of smell, slowing down of air circulation and drainage, causing mucous to build up, thus creating a breeding ground for

Contact: David March
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions

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