QIMR Berghofer Institute of Medical Research
The Asthma Genetics Study

Media Appeal

What causes asthma?

Asthma symptoms develop when the airways become inflamed as a result of exposure to specific environmental triggers, such as dust, smoke or even exercise. However, not all individuals exposed to the same triggers develop asthma symptoms. The main reason for this is that some individuals are genetically more likely to develop asthma than others, but we know very little about how genes act to cause asthma.

What is the purpose of the Asthma Genetics Study?

Our main goal is to identify the genes that make some individuals more likely to develop asthma than others. Identifying these genes will potentially give us key insights into the molecular mechanisms that trigger asthma and, in the long term, this information may point to new targets for improved treatments.

How is this study different from previous research conducted in Australia?

Our research will apply the latest state-of-the art technology to compare the DNA of asthma patients against the DNA of healthy individuals. This includes next-generation technologies for DNA sequencing, which will allow us to identify with greater precision the specific genes that may differ between asthmatics and non-asthmatics.

Who is running the Asthma Genetics Study?

The Asthma Genetics Study is being conducted by a team of researchers at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR). The team is led by Dr Manuel Ferreira, a leader in the field of Asthma Genetics in Australia.

Are there any other institutions involved?

This study is contributing to the largest asthma genetics research program conducted to date in Australia. The institutions that currently participate in this collaboration - entitled the Australian Asthma Genetics Consortium - include QIMR, the University of Queensland, University of Melbourne, Monash University, University of Western Australia, Woolcock Institute of the University of Sydney and the Melbourne Royal Children's Hospital. For more information on this study, please visit http://genepi.qimr.edu.au/aagc/

Who is paying for the Asthma Genetics Study?

Funding for this research was obtained in 2010 from the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia.

Who will be studied?

We believe that many hundreds of genes, each with a very small impact on disease risk, contribute to the onset and severity of asthma. Because these genes have small effects, we need to analyse the DNA of many thousands of patients to be able to accurately identify them amongst the ~20,000 genes that are present in the human genome. For this reason, we would like to further expand our existing QIMR cohort of asthma patients and recruit 1,000 new patients. We are interested in individuals who have had asthma diagnosed by a doctor at any point in their lifetime.

What does being in the study involve?

You will be invited to (i) complete a brief survey on respiratory symptoms and (ii) donate a blood or saliva sample for genetic and immune function testing.

Is my participation in the study compulsory?

No. Participation in entirely voluntary and requires your consent. Furthermore, you may withdraw from the study and have all the information you provided destroyed at any point in time.

Genetic and immune function tests

We will extract DNA from your blood or saliva sample and measure genetic information that we would like to test for association with asthma risk, using the latest technologies available for genotyping, sequencing and gene-expression analysis. This information will not be used for any purpose other than to help discover genes that may affect your health. If we ask you to provide a blood sample, we will also conduct immune function tests that may help refine your asthma status, such as measuring the levels of Immunoglobulin-E and eosinophils in your blood.

Will confidentiality and privacy be assured throughout the study?

Yes. All study data will remain strictly confidential in accordance with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines and will be stored in password-protected databases with restricted access at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research. All analyses are conducted and results published in a form that does not allow identification of any individual. Throughout the study the privacy of individuals will be protected at all times.

Who do I talk to if I still have questions or if there are other issues that concern me?

If you want further information about the study, please do not hesitate to contact us on our toll-free number 1800 257 179.

How do I participate?

If you are over the age of 18 and have had asthma diagnosed by a doctor, you can participate by completing a short asthma survey (up to 5 minutes) in the next section (press button below). We will then contact you to organise the collection of a blood or saliva sample.

We are also interested in individuals who have never had asthma to be included as a control group in our analyses.

Start Survey