The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) has awarded more than $4 million to USC researchers investigating how genes and air pollution affect asthma risk and lung function in children.
The grant, awarded over three years, is part of a NHLBI program to fund genome-wide association studies searching for genes affecting respiratory and cardiovascular health.
Led by Jim Gauderman, professor of preventive medicine, the USC team hopes to find new genes related to asthma and adolescent lung development.
“Asthma is a complex disease, making it difficult to identify specific risk factors,” he said. “By using our large resources to simultaneously study air pollutants and genetics, we can move knowledge about what might cause asthma forward.”
Joining Gauderman are USC colleagues Frank Gilliland, professor of occupational and environmental health; David Van Den Berg, research assistant professor in urology; and Duncan Thomas, professor of preventive medicine and co-director of the biostatistics division.
Gauderman said his group’s approach is distinctive because of its focus on both genes and environmental factors. The study will build on the long-term Children’s Health Study, employing nearly 14 years worth of air quality data and a cohort of nearly 3,000 children to examine gene-environment interaction and its affect on adolescent respiratory health.
Beyond simply adding to the body of information surrounding asthma, this type of investigation has great importance in regards to public health, he added.
According to the NHLBI, asthma is one of the most common chronic childhood illnesses.
Gauderman said that identifying genetically susceptible subgroups, as well as pollutants that can trigger asthma onset, might someday help prevent this serious disease.