$9.5 Million Federal Grant to Support ‘Asthma Genome’ Project with African-Americans

A Johns Hopkins-led team of experts in genetics, immunology, epidemiology and allergic disease has embarked on a four-year effort to map the genetic code, or whole genome, of 1,000 people of African descent, including men and women from Baltimore.

Researchers say their initial goal is to find genetic variations underlying asthma and to explain why the disease disproportionately afflicts blacks. As many as 20 percent of African-Americans have asthma and blacks are three times more likely to be hospitalized or die from the condition than other American adults.

Study principal investigator and immunogeneticist Kathleen Barnes, Ph.D., says the effort to sequence the genetic code of 500 asthmatics and 500 non-asthmatics “represents an exciting opportunity to disentangle the genetic basis of a host of other diseases, not just asthma, which have a hereditary component and uniquely or disproportionately affect minorities.”

Barnes, a professor in the Division of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the university’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, and her team say they will make their findings freely available to other researchers through the dbGAP national database of genome-wide association studies, maintained by the National Library of Medicine, a member of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, also part of the NIH, has provided the Johns Hopkins team with $9.5 million in study funding.

Researchers plan to sequence the genomes of blacks selected from among an international group of people participating in existing genetic studies, who have already been clinically diagnosed with asthma, or without, or who have other kinds of compromised lung function, and whose family histories are well documented. The participants will be selected from 15 academic research centers across the United States, the Caribbean and South America, as well as from four additional research sites in Western Africa.

Source : Johns Hopkins Medicine