EU Marie Curie scientist presents new evidence of 'asthma gene' in children

17 Feb 2011 08:20 AM

A scientist supported by the European Union's Marie Curie research fund has found new evidence that a specific 'asthma gene' is a cause of the respiratory condition in children.

The young German scientist, Michaela Schedel, believes that her findings could change our understanding of childhood asthma and lead to new treatments for the potentially fatal condition, which affects 100 million people in Europe and three times as many worldwide.

"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.

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, who is is 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."

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 EU's Marie Curie Actions provide grants at all career stages from post-graduate level to encourage international mobility among Europe's best researchers. The EU will allocate more than €4.5 billion under the scheme between 2007 and 2013.

A total of 50,000 researchers have been supported by the 'Marie Curie Actions' since 1996.

The Marie Curie Actions have played a key role in the 'European Research Area'. They are managed by the Research Executive Agency (REA), a funding body created by the EU to manage parts of the European Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7), one of the pillars of the Europe 2020 strategy for sustainable and inclusive growth.

To find out more:
EU Marie Curie Actions: http://ec.europa.eu/mariecurieactions/

AAAS 2011 Annual Meeting: http://www.aaas.org/meetings/

EU 2020 Strategy: http://ec.europa.eu/eu2020/index_en.htm

FP7: http://cordis.europa.eu/fp7/home_en.html

REA: http://ec.europa.eu/research/rea