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Of mice and asthma.

Of mice and ashtma

Efforts to decipher asthma's genetics coud a get a boost from the discovery of two genes that independently cause airway hyperreactivity in mice. The condition underlies the development of asthma in humans. Roy C. Levitt and Wayne Mitzner of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore reported the first gene -- designated Ach -- in the July FASEB JOURNAL. Now Levitt has announced discovery of the second, called the Ser locus, and its preliminary mapping o n mouse chromosome 2. "There are discrete genes in the mouse that are responsible for or determine airway activity," Levitt says. "It's apparent these genes are not linked; they are probably on separate chromosomes."

Levitt and mitzner exposed inbred mice with airway hyperreactivity to serotonin and acetylcholine, two neurotransmitters known to trigger decreased pulmonary functioning in animals and humans with airway hyperreactivity. They found a separate gene controlled the animals' responses to each chemical -- thus the gene designations Ach and Ser. Some mice had one gene and some had both, but either gene adversely affected the animal's pulmonary activity. Levitt cautions there is no evidence yet that these genes exist in humans.

Family and twin studies indicate a genetic factor i n airway hyperreactivity and asthma. A number of humans with airway hyperreactivity, however, exhibit no symptoms and their condition requires lung-function measurements to detect.

"Airway hyperreactivity is a heritable trait in humans," Levitt says. "The number of genes and the molecular processes remain to be determined, and we're hoping our animal model sheds some light on this. Airway hyperractivity is not asthma, but it may lead to an understanding of how airway hyperractivity develops into asthma."
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Title Annotation:research on genetics of asthma
Author:Young, Patrick
Publication:Science News
Date:Aug 6, 1988
Words:273
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