For millions of asthmatics, hopeful gene therapy studies

For millions of asthmatics, hopeful gene therapy studies

The lead article in The New England Journal of Medicine in September discussed novel research on genetic variation in asthma. More than 300-million people worldwide have asthma, and up to 20 percent of these show poor or no response to corticosteroid medication, which is usually their main controller medicine.

Researchers at Harvard speculated this lack of response to corticosteroid medicines might be genetically linked and they sought to find the gene.

By screening 530,000 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs – pronounced snips) in a large group of asthmatics they discovered one SNP called rs37973 that showed up in the non-steroid responders. Furthermore, they discovered that rs37973 decreases the effectiveness of gene GLCCI-1, which is the gene that controls response to steroids.

Their hope is that new therapies will soon be discovered that “up-regulate” (turn on) the depressed GLCCI-1 gene.

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