Knowledge gained from these studies increases understanding of the genetics and mechanisms involved in immediate and delayed type allergic response.  This can potentially be used for diagnostics, prognostics and/or therapeutics.

Allergy is hypersensitive reaction to harmless substance in environment.  Allergies affect approximately 30% of the population, and are a major cause of morbidity in the UK. The aim of our research is to identify genetic and molecular determinants that help explain a range of allergies.

The major allergic conditions are highly prevalent in the UK – with estimates showing that up to 30% of adults suffer. Other allergies such as peanut allergy can affect less than 3% of the population but can be fatal. Although many disease loci have been found in linkage and genome wide association studies, it is clear that much remains to be discovered.

The Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) allergy project is the first twin study to investigate genetic determinants of immediate (type I) and delayed type (type IV) hypersensitivity.  It encompasses a combination of genetic, epigenetic, gene expression, methylation and metabolomics data on up to 5,500 individuals from the TwinsUK registry and allergy data using questionnaires, skin and blood.  We are carefully phenotyping 1,500 individual twins for a range of allergies, including skin, food and respiratory allergens, using methods such as patch testing and radioallergosorbent test (RAST).  Patch testing involves applying a plaster-like panel containing allergens and evaluating the severity of allergic response, if any, after 48 hours of panel application.  RAST is an immunological test which encompasses mixing blood with a series of allergens and measuring the levels of allergy antibody (immunoglobulin) produced. IgE levels over a threshold suggest hypersensitivity to the allergen.

We are identifying cases using clinical criteria and performing association analyses to discover novel determinants for the range of allergic cases. At the same time, fresh blood is being taken and preserved for future immunological studies. This cross-cutting project involves at least 4 BRC themes (Genetics, Allergy, Immunity and Dermatology).

We expect we will find many new loci involved in allergy. These will provide important biological insights into the processes involved, improving the science behind the development of therapies and diagnosis. In cases with more penetrant variants they may help explain individual susceptibility and familial clustering, and help guide therapeutic approaches.

People involved:

  • Timothy Spector
  • Chris Hammond
  • Frank Nestle
  • Lydia Quaye
  • TwinsUK admin team
  • TwinsUK clinical team


Funded by:
The Biomedical Resource Centre

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