Genes May Determine Asthma Medication

Author:  Hoi See Tsao

Institution:  Wellesley College
Date:  June 2007

Researchers from the University of Dundee have identified the gene which produces the protein filaggrin. Defects in this protein are known to cause asthma and eczema, and now scientists have found that such defects could affect the day-to-day amount of treatment needed for children or young adults with asthma, potentially greatly reducing the medications patients need.

The results, published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, show that defects in the filaggrin-producing gene increase the need for asthma patients to use their inhaler every day by three to six times. These patients are also more likely to need extra medications in addition to their inhaler.

Filaggrin is found in the outermost skin layers, acting as a barrier to keep water in and foreign organisms out of the body.

"Our findings show that these gene defects that affect the skin barrier which filaggrin provides ha[ve] a significant effect on day-to-day asthma morbidity and [the] medication we use," said Dr. Somnath Mukhopadhyay, one of the researchers involved in the study, in an interview with "If these genetic skin barrier defects directly exacerbate asthma, young asthma sufferers who show these barrier defects may respond better to allergen withdrawal strategies. This would lead to a significant long-term reduction in asthma medication requirements."

According to the American Lung Association, almost 20 million Americans are affected by asthma. Similarly, the National Eczema Society states that one-fifth of school-age children and one in twelve adults have some form of eczema.

Written by Hoi See Tsao