A study led by Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) researchers investigating the influence of genes and environment on lung health will receive $1.9 million in funding over the next five years. The research project, led by Dr. Padmaja Subbarao, is among the eight research studies that have been selected for a total of $16 million in funding as part of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR)’s Environments and Health initiative.
The interdisciplinary research project includes scientists from Environment Canada, McMaster University, Queen’s University, and the University of Toronto, who are investigating the effects of genes and the environment as root causes of asthma.
Researchers will assess how the lasting lung damage caused by childhood asthma is a possible early marker for chronic and serious diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). The team will evaluate data from the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study, a CIHR and AllerGen, the Allergy, Genes and Environment Network funded study that includes the participation of over 3,500 children, constituting one of the largest studies evaluating the relationship between genes, the environment, and their influences on allergies and chronic conditions.
The study has, so far, produced over 500,000 questionnaires, and researchers have collected over 600,000 biological samples.
“We, along with other scientists, believe that the air we breathe, the things we eat and the colds we get can cause injury to the lungs of infants and children. These injuries over time can cause breathing problems such as asthma. Understanding what our lungs are telling us and the impact of early damage could allow us to identify early risk factors for respiratory or cardiovascular disease,” said, in a news release, Dr. Subbarao, who is also the co-director of the CHILD study. “We believe we can discover what things each person can do to improve their lungs and prevent them from getting chronic breathing problems, making Canada the healthiest place to live.”
The families involved in the CHILD study have provided detailed information about environmental variables, such as quality of food, air, health status, and have also performed breathing tests for determination of lung function. Their genomes, microbiomes and metabolomes have also been analyzed.
“This research funding will enable researchers to use these new technologies to better understand the complex interactions that cause chronic disease, and ultimately help us to identify better ways to prevent and treat chronic disease conditions,” concluded Dr. Philip Sherman, Scientific Director, CIHR Institute of Nutrition, Metabolism and Diabetes, and Senior Scientist and Staff Gastroenterologist at SickKids.
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