23andMe, a California-based personal genetics company, has participated in the first-ever genome-wide association study (GWAS) of the combined asthma-with-hay fever phenotype. Led by researchers at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Australia, the study identified 11 independent genetic markers associated with the development of asthma-with-hay fever, including two associations reaching a level of significance with allergic disease for the first time. Through these findings, 23andMe aims to substantially improve the ability to detect genetic risk factors shared between both diseases. Previous research has shown that both asthma and hay fever share 50-90 percent of their genetic susceptibility and 20-50 percent of their environmental susceptibility. 23andMe has collected information on both conditions through its asthma symptoms survey, and, in this analysis, used data contributed by 15,072 of its customers. Data was also collected from three additional studies conducted in Australia and the United Kingdom, with cases defined as persons who reported a physician diagnosis of asthma and also hay fever (total N=6,685). This group was compared to a control group of individuals who reported neither a diagnosis of asthma or hay fever (total N=14,091). “While previous analyses provided evidence of a stronger genetic association of this combined phenotype, there has not been a genome-wide association study exploring the connection in further detail,” said David Hinds, Ph.D., study author and 23andMe principal scientist in statistical genetics.
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