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Published: 16 August 2016  
Related theme(s) and subtheme(s)
Frontier research (ERC)
Health & life sciencesAllergy & asthma
Countries involved in the project described in the article
Germany
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Playing dirty against allergies and asthma

Research shows that those who grow up on farms are less likely to suffer from allergies and asthma. Prof. Erika von Mutius leads a team of researchers who use this knowledge to investigate how we could treat such conditions more effectively.

picture of the small boy on the neadow

© lunaundmo - fotolia.com

City dwellers will be interested to know that their children are five times more likely to develop asthma or allergies - respiratory conditions that will affect around half of the European population before 2025 and which, so far, remain without a cure. The EU funded project HERA, led by Prof. von Mutius, from LMU Munich, focuses on what determines this type of protection.

By using the latest innovative high throughput DNA sequencing techniques, Prof. von Mutius has highlighted the role of microbes in reducing the occurrence of these conditions. With her ERC Advanced Grant, the researcher collected samples from children with different backgrounds and disease profiles to understand the composition of fungi and bacteria they were exposed to and analyse the substances these microorganisms produce. In addition, Prof. von Mutius was able to study the genetic susceptibility of specific individuals.

This allowed her team to investigate the link between environmental factors, such as microbial exposure from a farm, and genetic factors in determining the occurrence of these conditions.

By describing, for the first time, the world of microbes that inhabit our body, in higher numbers than even our human cells, Prof. von Mutius discovered the importance of coming in contact with a diverse range of the right microorganisms. She even highlighted the protective role of certain bacterial and fungal chemicals, such as endotoxins and extracellular polysaccharides. The discoveries made during this study could help reduce the fear many allergic or asthmatic patients feel when spring approaches.

Project details

  • Project acronym: HERA
  • Participants: Germany (Coordinator)
  • Project N°: 250268
  • Total costs: € 2 155 697
  • EU contribution: € 2 155 697
  • Duration: May 2010 - April 2015

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Countries
Countries
  Algeria
  Argentina
  Australia
  Austria
  Bangladesh
  Belarus
  Belgium
  Benin
  Bolivia
  Botswana
  Brazil
  Bulgaria
  Burkina Faso
  Cambodia
  Cameroon
  Canada
  Cape Verde
  Chile
  China
  Colombia
  Costa Rica
  Croatia
  Cyprus
  Czech Republic
  Denmark
  Ecuador
  Egypt
  Estonia
  Ethiopia
  Faroe Islands
  Finland
  France
  Gambia
  Georgia