The GABRIEL project, funded through an EC Framework 6 grant, involves over 150 scientists from 14 European countries and Russia, using the latest research across a variety of disciplines, including genetics, epidemiology and immunology, to identify key factors in the development of asthma bronchiale.
Professor Bill Cookson, from Imperial College London, and co-ordinator of the study, said: "Asthma bronchiale is the major chronic childhood illness in Europe costing the European Community more than Euro three billion each year. Although effective therapies for mild asthma exist, the 10 percent of children with severe disease account for 60 percent of this expense, and even when treatment is effective it is not able to cure the disease."
Asthma is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental effects, and despite being rare a hundred years ago, it has become increasingly common in developed societies across the world. Scientists believe rural environments are strongly protective against the disease, and increasing urbanisation may be contributing to the rise in the numbers affected.
Professor Cookson added: "We hope this study will help us identify just how genes and the environment cause the development of asthma, identifying both risk and protective factors, with the long-term aim of preventing the illness."
Professor Erika von Mutius from LMU Munich and co-leader of the project added: "Previous studies have shown the causes of asthma are incredibly diverse with a huge number of genetic and environmental factors all potentially having an impact. Traditionally it has been hard to analyse all the genetic and environmental information but the latest developments in areas such as genomics and bioinformatics
Contact: Tony Stephenson
Imperial College London