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More Risk Genes for Allergies

In a meta-analysis of several genome studies, an international research team which included scientists of the Institute of Epidemiology I has identified 10 genes that together are responsible for the development of allergic sensitization.

In a meta-analysis of several genome studies an international team of scientists has identified ten genes that are involved in the development of allergic sensitization. In the genome-wide association studies (GWAS), the scientists correlated the genetic profile of the study participants with the presence of specific IgE antibodies. They discovered that ten loci are involved in a total of 25 percent of all allergic sensitizations, the immunological process in which antibodies form against allergens, which are actually harmless substances in the environment.

These antigens subsequently cause the allergic symptoms. The researchers analyzed data from more than 10 000 people with allergic sensitization and approximately 20 000 control subjects. Among them were participants of the German birth cohorts GINIplus and LISAplus; their evaluation was carried out by Marie Standl and Joachim Heinrich of the Institute of Epidemiology I. This comprehensive genetic analysis in relation to the objective measurement of allergic sensitization enables an assessment of the identified genes  as risk factors for allergic diseases. In addition, all of these genes showed a correlation with the occurrence of allergic manifestations such as hay fever and asthma.

The results of this meta-analysis indicate that enormous genetic diversity underlies allergic diseases. Further­more, lifestyle factors and environmental stresses play an important role in future allergy research and the treatment of patients. Now, based on the genetic information, the scientists want to investigate the involved molecular mechanisms in more detail in order to obtain new insights into the pathomechanisms of allergies and other immune diseases.

Allergic diseases are increasing throughout the world. In Europe alone an estimated 80 million people are affected. The reason for the allergic reaction is a complex gene-environment interaction.