New evidence that a specific 'asthma gene' is a cause of the respiratory condition in children has been discovered by a young German scientist supported by the European Union's Marie Curie research fund. Michaela Schedel believes her findings could change our understanding of childhood asthma and lead to new treatments for the potentially fatal condition.
"We have convincing evidence that a specific gene is involved in the development of asthma in children," said 33-year-old Schedel, who carried out her initial research at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich and is now working with a team under Professor Dr. Michael Kabesch, a leading expert in allergy genetics at Hannover Medical School.
Schedel will present her findings in Washington this weekend at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Her research has focused on a specific gene called ORMDL3, which is found on one of the chromosomes which are the basis for each person's unique DNA identity.
"We have a first hint on the causal relationship between this gene, present on chromosome 17, and the development of asthma, a sickness that can be treated but for which there is no cure yet,” the scientist explained.
Schedel hopes that her findings could lead to the development of innovative preventive and therapeutic strategies, which could ultimately bring a cure to the condition which causes a narrowing of the airways to the lungs.
Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou, whose responsibility includes the Marie Curie Actions fund, said: "Without support from the EU, this pioneering medical research might not be taking place. I applaud the dedication of young scientists like Michaela, who are carrying out work which could dramatically change the lives of millions of people."
The UK has among the highest prevalence rates of asthma symptoms in children worldwide, with 1.1 million currently receiving treatment. Some 5.4 million adults are also receiving treatment, according to figures released by Asthma UK. The condition affects 100 million people in Europe and three times as many worldwide.
After her initial research in Munich, Schedel continued her work at the National Jewish Health respiratory hospital in Denver, Colorado, before moving to the Hannover Medical School.
Schedel, one of 220 researchers supported by the EU since 2008 through exchange programmes in the US, added. "The Marie Curie grant has been amazing and I know it will open doors for me in the future."