Public Release:  Genetic influence on pulmonary function: Six further genes identified

Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health

In their investigations or so-called genome-wide association studies, the team of researchers compared the genetic profile of study participants to the forced vital capacity (FVC), a volume parameter of lung function. Six gene loci here displayed a clear association with the FVC values. Involvement in lung development or certain pulmonary diseases is furthermore suspected for these genes.

Better understanding of the association between genes, lung function and lung diseases

The identified genes open up new molecular biological approaches for a better understanding of lung development and of the repair and remodelling processes during disease pathogenesis. "The results supply the foundation for detailed research into lung diseases and clarification of the association between genetics, lung function and susceptibility to respiratory disorders", reports Prof. Dr. Holger Schulz, head of the Pulmonary Epidemiology research group at the Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU). "Against the background of these findings, we can, for example identify possible risk groups and develop new therapeutic approaches", adds Dr. Christian Gieger (HMGU).

Comprehensive genome analysis: more than 85,000 participants from 35 studies

Under the direction of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the United States, the team of international scientists analyzed the data from a total of 85,170 participants from 35 study cohorts. Also included were participants in the German KORA cohort studies, which were evaluated by HMGU scientists. The Institutes of Epidemiology I and II (EPI I, EPI II), the Institute of Genetic Epidemiology (IGE) and the Comprehensive Pneumology Center (CPC) at the HMGU were involved.

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Lung diseases are among the leading causes of death around the world. Genetics, life style and environmental factors play a role in their development. As the German Research Center for Environmental Health, the HMGU's focus is on major widespread diseases. Its objective is to develop new approaches to diagnosis, therapy and prevention.

More information

For more than 20 years, the research platform Cooperative Health Research in the Augsburg Region (KORA) has been collecting and analyzing data on the health of thousands of people living in the Augsburg region. The objective is to elucidate the effects of environmental factors, behavior and genes. KORA focuses on the development and course of chronic diseases, in particular myocardial infarction and diabetes mellitus. Risk factors are analyzed with regard to individual health behavior (e.g. smoking, diet, exercise), environmental factors (e.g. air pollution, noise) and genetics. From the perspective of health care research, questions regarding the utilization of health care resources and the cost of health care are also studied.

Original publication:

Loth, D. et al. (2014): Genome-wide association analysis identifies six new loci associated with forced vital capacity, Nature Genetics (2014). | doi:10.1038/ng.3011

Link to publication: http://www.nature.com/ng/journal/vaop/ncurrent/full/ng.3011.html

The Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German Research Center for Environmental Health, pursues the goal of developing personalized medicine, i.e. a customized approach to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of widespread diseases such as diabetes mellitus and lung disease. To that end, it investigates the interaction of genetics, environmental factors and lifestyle. The Helmholtz Zentrum München is headquartered in Neuherberg in the north of Munich. It has about 2,200 staff members and is a member of the Helmholtz Association, Germany's largest scientific organization, a community of 18 scientific-technical and medical-biological research centers with some 34,000 staff members. The Helmholtz Zentrum München is a partner in the German Center for Diabetes Research.

The Institute of Epidemiology I (EPI I) conducts research into the significance of environmental and lifestyle factors, genetic constitution and metabolism in the genesis and progression of respiratory, metabolic and allergic diseases, as well as of selected types of cancer. Research is based on data and biological samples obtained from the population-based cohort studies GINI, LISA and MONICA/KORA. The Institute plays a leading role in the planning and setting up of the national cohorts.

The Institute of Epidemiology II (EPI II) focuses on the assessment of environmental and lifestyle risk factors which jointly affect major chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and mental health. Research builds on the unique resources of the KORA cohort, the KORA myocardial infarction registry, and the KORA aerosol measurement station. Aging-related phenotypes have been added to the KORA research portfolio within the frame of the Research Consortium KORA-Age. The institute's contributions are specifically relevant for the population as modifiable personal risk factors are being researched that could be influenced by the individual or by improving legislation for the protection of public health.

Research at the Institute of Genetic Epidemiology (IGE) is concerned with genetic statistics. This encompasses the planning, execution and analysis of gene mapping projects related to complex diseases as well as the development and implementation of new statistical methods. The activities extend to genome-wide association studies and linkage analyses (family studies) of a wide variety of diseases. A focus is on phenotypes that are studied within the framework of the population-based KORA cohort. The aim of the Institute is to contribute to the elucidation of the genetic causes of complex diseases.

The Comprehensive Pneumology Center (CPC) is a joint research project of the Helmholtz Zentrum München, the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Clinic Complex and the Asklepios Fachkliniken München-Gauting. The CPC's objective is to conduct research on chronic lung diseases in order to develop new diagnosis and therapy strategies. The CPC maintains a focus on experimental pneumology with the investigation of cellular, molecular and immunological mechanisms involved in lung diseases. The CPC is a site of the Deutsches Zentrum für Lungenforschung (DZL).

Scientific contact at Helmholtz Zentrum München

Prof. Holger Schulz, Helmholtz Zentrum München - German Research Center for Environmental Health (GmbH), Institute of Epidemiology I, Ingolstädter Landstr. 1, 85764 Neuherberg, Germany - Phone: 089-3187-4119 - E-Mail: schulz@helmholtz-muenchen.de

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