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Genome-wide association studies in asthma: progress and pitfalls

Authors March M, Sleiman P, Hakonarson H

Received 8 August 2014

Accepted for publication 14 October 2014

Published 30 January 2015 Volume 2015:5 Pages 107—119


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Dr John Martignetti

Michael E March,1 Patrick MA Sleiman,1,2 Hakon Hakonarson1,2

1Center for Applied Genomics, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, 2Department of Pediatrics, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Genetic studies of asthma have revealed that there is considerable heritability to the phenotype. An extensive history of candidate-gene studies has identified a long list of genes associated with immune function that are potentially involved in asthma pathogenesis. However, many of the results of candidate-gene studies have failed to be replicated, leaving in question the true impact of the implicated biological pathways on asthma. With the advent of genome-wide association studies, geneticists are able to examine the association of hundreds of thousands of genetic markers with a phenotype, allowing the hypothesis-free identification of variants associated with disease. Many such studies examining asthma or related phenotypes have been published, and several themes have begun to emerge regarding the biological pathways underpinning asthma. The results of many genome-wide association studies have currently not been replicated, and the large sample sizes required for this experimental strategy invoke difficulties with sample stratification and phenotypic heterogeneity. Recently, large collaborative groups of researchers have formed consortia focused on asthma, with the goals of sharing material and data and standardizing diagnosis and experimental methods. Additionally, research has begun to focus on genetic variants that affect the response to asthma medications and on the biology that generates the heterogeneity in the asthma phenotype. As this work progresses, it will move asthma patients closer to more specific, personalized medicine.

Keywords: asthma, genetics, GWAS, pharmacogenetics, biomarkers

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