Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Asthma Health Center

Font Size

New Gene Tied to Childhood Asthma

Researchers Say Identification of Gene May Lead to Development of New Treatments
WebMD Health News

Dec. 28, 2009 -- A newly identified gene may play a critical role in triggering childhood asthma and offer new opportunities for developing more effective asthma treatments.

Researchers say the gene, DENND1B, affects cells and other signaling molecules thought to be involved in the immune system overreaction that occurs in childhood asthma.

"We now know that the DENND1B gene and its protein are involved in the release of cytokines, which are signaling molecules that in this case tell the body how it should respond to foreign particles," says researcher Hakon Hakonarson, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, in a news release. "In asthma, patients have an inappropriate immune response in which they develop airway inflammation and overreaction of the airway muscle cells, referred to as airway hyperresponsiveness. The gene mutations in DENND1B appear to lead to overproduction of cytokines that subsequently drive this oversensitive response in asthma patients."

Asthma is a complex disease that causes wheezing, coughing, and shortness of breath.

Researchers say many factors, including genetics and environmental factors, play a role in the cause of asthma. Until now, only one gene has been associated with childhood asthma, but many genes are thought to be involved.

In the study, researchers scanned the entire human genome looking for gene variants associated with childhood asthma risk in 793 white North American children with persistent asthma and a comparison group of 1,988 healthy children.

To confirm their results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, they then replicated the study in another group of 2,400 people of European ancestry and 3,700 African-American children.

In addition to confirming the previously identified asthma gene located on chromosome 17, researchers found another gene located on chromosome 1q31 was associated with an increased risk of childhood asthma in both children of European and African ancestry.

Researchers say the gene, DENND1B, is already suspected to be involved in the body's immune response and helps regulate how the body responds to foreign substances, like viruses, bacteria, and allergens.

"Intervening in this pathway has great potential for treating asthma," says Hakonarson. "Other asthma-related genes remain to be discovered, but finding a way to target this common gene variant could benefit large numbers of children."

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

When Is Your Asthma Worse?

Take the WebMD Asthma assessment to get Personalized Action Plan

Start Now

Today on WebMD

Lung and bronchial tube graphic
5 common triggers.
group jogging in park
Should you avoid fitness activities?
asthma inhaler
Learn about your options.
man feeling faint
What’s the difference?
Madison Wisconsin Capitol
woman wearing cpap mask
red wine pouring into glass
Woman holding inhaler
Man outdoors coughing
Lung and bronchial tube graphic
10 Worst Asthma Cities