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Identification Of New Asthma Genes Demonstrates A Model For Improved Patient Care

13.04.2004


An international team of researchers from the University of Helsinki, GeneOS Ltd. and partner institutions announced today that it has made significant discoveries on the causes of asthma. The team’s study, published in the April 9, 2004 edition of Science, reports two novel asthma genes and a set of diagnostic single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs).

The implications of the finding are that physicians may be able to identify atopic asthma and allergy patients earlier than is currently possible. Even more importantly, the gene that was found to be the risk gene for asthma is well suited for a drug target molecule.
Previous genome-wide scans in multiple populations have suggested that there is a susceptibility region for asthma on chromosome 7p. This study focused its efforts to confirm the hypothesis and to identify the genes in the Finnish families. The results were then replicated among the Canadian families to be sure that the findings are valid also in other populations. A hierarchical genotyping design was used and lead to the identification of a 133kb risk-conferring segment that contained two genes. The data imply that an orphan G-protein receptor named GPRA is involved in the pathogenesis of atopy and asthma and may have application in other inflammatory diseases.


“The importance of this discovery is that our findings validate our approach of being able to build relevant patient databases and use this information to understand disease outcome”, said Tarja Laitinen, Chief Scientific Officer, GeneOS. “Additionally, these findings are very relevant for our company because they show how we can use information generated in Finland and apply it to other populations. GeneOS is building its capabilities to study disease outcomes in Finland to help pharmaceutical and medical device companies design and run clinical trials and better understand patient response. Findings like the GPRA gene will lead to better diagnosis and treatment.”

“This research is a culmination of ten-year project to identify genes for complex diseases”, said Professor Juha Kere from Karolinska Institutet (Sweden) and University of Helsinki. “Other, similar findings may become reality from comparable efforts, building on the excellent Finnish and Scandinavian medical and population data.”

The number of asthmatics has been growing at about 10 % per year; currently asthma affects approximately 6-10 % of the population in the United States and Western Europe. Asthma accounts for approximately 10 % of all prescription drug spending in the United States and Western Europe. Treatment plans are complex and the ability to measure improved outcome is poor. The ability to study outcomes in Finland and then confirm the findings in other populations will help improve treatment for patients worldwide.

For further information please contact:
Juha Kere, Professor, Helsinki University and Karolinska Institutet, +46 7 3421 3550, juha.kere@biosci.ki.se (about discovery)

Tarja Laitinen, Chief Scientific Officer, GeneOS Ltd., + 358 50 534 6238,tarja.laitinen@geneos.fi (about discovery and GeneOS)

Steve Lehrer, CEO, GeneOS Inc. +1 650 269 3420,
steve@sblehrer.com (about GeneOs)

Paivi Lehtinen | alfa
Further information:
http://www.helsinki.fi

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