Study searches active genetic neighborhoods for genes that can be targeted to treat asthmatic disease
In a study published yesterday in the scientific journal Nature Immunology, a group at the La Jolla Institute (LJI) led by Pandurangan Vijayanand, Ph.D. identify new genes that likely contribute to asthma, a disease that currently affects over 200 million people world wide.
An organism’s genetic material, also known as its genome, can be divided into small sections or ‘neighborhoods.’ Scientists can determine which genetic neighborhoods in a cell are active, or primed for gene production, by looking for a marker on the genome called an enhancer. An enhancer can increase the production of genes in its immediate neighborhood.
The goal of the published study is to find genes whose neighborhoods are active in diseased cells, but inactive in healthy cells. Genes that are in active neighborhoods in diseased cells are likely to contribute to disease, and can potentially be targeted with drug treatments.
In order to find genetic neighborhoods that are active in asthmatic disease, the scientists in Vijayanand’s group focus their experiments on memory cells, which develop abnormally in asthma patients. Memory cells are responsible for quickly responding to foreign substances called antigens that the host has been exposed to previously. Air passage inflammation, which characterizes asthma, is mediated by an overactive response to inhaled antigens by memory cells.
By applying his technique in small populations of abnormal memory cells, Vijayanand highlights 33 genetic neighborhoods that are highly active in diseased cells, but inactive in healthy cells, shifting the focus of asthma research to specific genes that are located in these neighborhoods.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) that are less precise, have previously identified 1,500 potential target regions associated with asthmatic disease. According to Vijayanand, these targets are too numerous to study individually, and as a result, the field has remained focused on just a few molecules for discovery of new asthma treatments.
Using their approach, Vijayanand’s team searched the 1,500 targets for those that have the greatest likelihood of contributing to asthmatic disease. “Our unbiased and hypothesis-free approach has revealed a staggering but manageable number of new molecules that could play a role in asthma, and thus are potentially novel therapeutic targets,” said Vijayanand.
Vijayanand and his team completed the study using different amounts of cells from the blood of healthy individuals and asthmatic patients. They did so in order to determine the smallest number of cells that were required for their technique, and found that it works with as little as 10,000 cells, which is significantly less than the millions of cells required to use other methods. Vijayanand envisions using this technique in situations where access to cells is limited, such as tumor biopsy for cancer.
The frequency of asthma is rising across the developed world as well as in several large developing countries. Treatment for asthma usually includes long-term nonspecific medication, as there is no cure at present.
Vijayanand says this study provides information that can be the starting point for many avenues of research and treatment. He says, “our study provides a rich and comprehensive resource that will be useful to the scientific community, enabling investigators to conduct their own detailed studies of the functional significance of the novel genes and enhancers that we have identified.”
The findings were published in a Nature Immunology paper entitled “Epigenomic analysis of primary human T cells reveals enhancers associated with TH2 memory cell differentiation and asthma susceptibility.” The study was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health, under grant numbers R01 HL114093 and U19 AI100275. Researchers from other institutions also contributed to this study, including those from Southampton National Institute for Health Research and University of California, San Francisco.
ABOUT LA JOLLA INSTITUTE
Founded in 1988, the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology is a biomedical research nonprofit focused on improving human health through increased understanding of the immune system. Its scientists carry out research seeking new knowledge leading to the prevention of disease through vaccines and the treatment and cure of infectious diseases, cancer, inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 (juvenile) diabetes, Crohn's disease and asthma. La Jolla Institute's research staff includes more than 150 Ph.D.s and M.D.s. To learn more about the Institute's work, visit www.liai.org.
Daniel Moyer | Eurek Alert!
27.05.2015 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University
Seeing the action
27.05.2015 | University of California - Santa Barbara
The only professorship in Germany to date, one master's programme, one laboratory with worldwide unique equipment and the corresponding research results: The University of Würzburg is leading in the field of biofabrication.
Paul Dalton is presently the only professor of biofabrication in Germany. About a year ago, the Australian researcher relocated to the Würzburg department for...
Physicists have developed an innovative method that could enable the efficient use of nanocomponents in electronic circuits. To achieve this, they have developed a layout in which a nanocomponent is connected to two electrical conductors, which uncouple the electrical signal in a highly efficient manner. The scientists at the Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel have published their results in the scientific journal “Nature Communications” together with their colleagues from ETH Zurich.
Electronic components are becoming smaller and smaller. Components measuring just a few nanometers – the size of around ten atoms – are already being produced...
Development and implementation of an advanced automobile parking navigation platform for parking services
To fulfill the requirements of the industry, PolyU researchers developed the Advanced Automobile Parking Navigation Platform, which includes smart devices,...
The world's first electrical car and passenger ferry powered by batteries has entered service in Norway. The ferry only uses 150 kWh per route, which...
On Tuesday, 19 May 2015 the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its home port in Bremerhaven, setting a course for the Arctic. Led by Dr Ilka Peeken from the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) a team of 53 researchers from 11 countries will investigate the effects of climate change in the Arctic, from the surface ice floes down to the seafloor.
RV Polarstern will enter the sea-ice zone north of Spitsbergen. Covering two shallow regions on their way to deeper waters, the scientists on board will focus...
20.05.2015 | Event News
18.05.2015 | Event News
12.05.2015 | Event News
27.05.2015 | Power and Electrical Engineering
27.05.2015 | Health and Medicine
27.05.2015 | Physics and Astronomy