Asthma is an allergic disease that affects approximately 300 million people
worldwide. Two of its phenotypes routinely assessed at the clinic include airway hyperresponsiveness
and IgE production. They can be measured in a non-invasive manner and have
been used for genetic studies.
The genetic complexity of asthma and its phenotypes makes it difficult to map their genetic
contributors. Human studies require large sample sizes and proper segregation of the population
to control for potential confounding factors. As an alternative, asthma genetics can be
studied in mice due to the high degree of homology in the genome and immune response
between mice and humans. The variety of mouse strains and allergic asthma protocols allow
to study different aspects of the disease while controlling for the genetic background.
Studying the genetic basis of asthma phenotypes has helped gain a better understanding of
the disease mechanism. Candidate genes identified from genetic studies have served as targets
for the development of new and specialized treatments. New treatments are high in demand as the symptoms
of a large number of asthmatics are not properly controlled with the existing treatment guidelines involving corticosteroids,
β2-adrenoreceptor agonists, and anti-leukotrienes or leukotriene modifiers.
Promising findings have been obtained from studies exploring new treatments targeting specific immune cell
mediators, which were identified as candidates in genetic studies, and cell adhesion molecules. In addition to
targeting members of the Th1/Th2 inflammatory profile, mediators of the omega-3 fatty acid pathway are also
emerging as novel targets of drug intervention for allergic asthma.