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University, 23andMe Identify Genetic Allergy Associations

DNA Strands (


Two large-scale population studies associating allergies to genomics discovered 16 genetic regions associated with common allergies, including pollen, cats, and dust mites. The findings from the studies that combined databases collected by the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children at Bristol University in the U.K. and the personal genetics company 23andMe in Mountain View, California appear online this week in the journal Nature Genetics (paid subscription required).

The Avon database is the result of a long-term health research project that enrolled more than 14,000 mothers during their pregnancies in 1991 and 1992, and has followed the health and development of their children since that time. The project is also known as Children of the 90s. The Avon database is part of a larger EArly Genetics and Lifecourse Epidemiology or EAGLE Consortium that combines the Avon data with 15 other similar pregnancy and health databases.

In the first study, researchers from the EAGLE consortum sampled from its combined databases some 5,800 allergy sufferers, as indicated by results of blood or skin-prick tests, compared with about 10,000 people without allergies. A second phase of the study replicated the inquiry with about 6,100 allergy sufferers and 9,900 people without allergies.

The analysis of allergic versus non-allergic individuals identified single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs — individual DNA sequences — associated with allergic sensitivities in 10 regions of the genomes of people with allergies. Those 10 regions accounted for an estimated 25 percent of the allergies in the population.

The second study drew nearly 54,000 entries from the 23andMe and Avon databases, in a genome-wide investigation focusing on three leading allergies: pollen, cats, and dust mites. While the EAGLE study used clinical records to identify allergic participants, the 23andMe/Avon study relied on self-reported allergic incidents.

The results identified 16 genetic associations related to the three allergies, in findings similar to the EAGLE study. Eight of the 16 regions were previously associated with asthma. The results from both studies made it possible to compare data from clinical reports and self-reported observations, yet still result in many of the same genes and pathways.

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