Food Allergy-Related Disorder Linked to Master Allergy Gene

Scientists have identified a region of a human chromosome that is associated with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE), a recently recognized allergic disease. People with EoE frequently have difficulty eating or may be allergic to one or more foods. This study further suggests that a suspected so-called master allergy gene may play a role in the development of this rare but debilitating disorder.

EoE is characterized by inflammation and accumulation of a specific type of immune cell, called an eosinophil, in the esophagus. Symptoms of EoE vary with age: In young children a major symptom is spitting up food, while in older children and adults, the condition may cause food to become stuck in the esophagus. These symptoms may improve when a person with EoE is restricted to a liquid formula diet that contains no protein allergens or is placed on a diet that lacks six highly allergenic foods (milk, soy, eggs, wheat, peanut and seafood). EoE is not the same as more common food allergies, which also have serious consequences. Little is known about what causes EoE, but the disease runs in families suggesting that specific genes may be involved.

Investigators led by Marc Rothenberg, M.D., Ph.D., at Cincinnati Children’s Medical Center Hospital, and supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, both part of the National Institutes of Health, performed a genome-wide association analysis in children with EoE and healthy children. This type of study detects markers of genetic variation across the entire human genome and allows researchers to zero in on a region of a chromosome to identify genes that influence health and the development of disease.

Childhood Asthma Treatment: Not One-Size-Fits-All

A new study has found the addition of long-acting beta-agonist therapy to be the most effective of three step-up, or supplemental, treatments for children whose asthma is not well controlled on low doses of inhaled corticosteroids alone.

The study was designed to provide needed evidence for selecting step-up care for such children and was supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health. Researchers also identified patient characteristics, such as race, that can help predict which step-up therapy is more likely to be the most effective for a child with persistent asthma.

The study found that almost all of its participants had a different response to the three different treatments. Although adding the long acting beta-agonist step-up was one and one-half times more likely to be the best treatment for most of the study group, many children responded best to other two treatments instead.

The results were presented March 2 at the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology 2010 Annual Meeting in New Orleans and are published online in the New England Journal of Medicine.

NHGRI Launches Online Genomics Center for Educators of Nurses, Physician Assistants

An online tool to help educators teach the next generation of nurses and physician assistants about genetics and genomics was launched today by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health. The tool is part of NHGRI’s effort to address the growing need among health care professionals for knowledge in this area, which is paving the way for more individualized approaches to detect, treat and prevent many diseases.

The Genetics/Genomics Competency Center (G2C2), developed by the University of Virginia in Charlottesville through a contract with NHGRI, is a free, Web-based collection of materials on genetics and genomics designed for educators who train nurses and physician assistants. To access this resource, visit

“As we enter the era of personalized medicine, establishing genetic and genomic literacy is an urgent concern for those who educate health professionals. This online resource will provide a valuable new tool for meeting that challenge,” said Jean Jenkins, R.N., Ph.D., NHGRI senior clinical advisor to the director. “In the future, we hope to expand this tool to include other health care professions, such as pharmacists and physicians.”

Emerging Science, Tech Advances Highlight New NIH Common Fund Programs

Programs to create a new center for the study of stem cells and to increase capacity to deal with global health issues were among seven scientific initiatives announced today by NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. The seven research programs are supported through the NIH Common Fund, which encourages collaborative research programs across the NIH institutes and centers, or ICs, to accomplish work that no single IC could do alone. The programs are all scheduled to begin during fiscal year 2010.

“These strategic investments will yield critical new resources, scientific knowledge, and strategic partnerships across a broad landscape of basic biology, behavioral science, global health, and clinical medicine,” said Dr. Collins.

The research programs will distribute $17.8 million in NIH Common Fund ( support in fiscal year 2010, and additional funds in future years. These projects capitalize on emerging scientific opportunities and technology advances to fuel biomedical discovery, strengthen the biomedical community nationally and globally, and hasten the translation of science discoveries into new and better treatments.

NIH and FDA Announce Collaborative Initiative to Fast-track Innovations to the Public

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health today unveiled an initiative designed to accelerate the process from scientific breakthrough to the availability of new, innovative medical therapies for patients.

The initiative involves two interrelated scientific disciplines: translational science, the shaping of basic scientific discoveries into treatments; and regulatory science, the development and use of new tools, standards and approaches to more efficiently develop products and to more effectively evaluate product safety, efficacy and quality. Both disciplines are needed to turn biomedical discoveries into products that benefit people.