Three million people in Canada are affected by asthma. This chronic disease, which results in the alarming constriction and inflammation of the airways, are often triggered by environmental stimulants. However, genetic factors may also contribute to its onset and severity.
While symptoms of asthma—which range from mild to life-threatening—can often be managed with medication and lifestyle adjustments, there is renewed interest in the research community to establish the underlying genetic components that can increase one's susceptibility to acquiring the disease.
Recent studies have suggested that changes in chromatin structures that surround our DNA inside the cell may influence one's susceptibility to asthma and other respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Furthermore, there is substantial evidence that environmental factors, over time, can change the shapes of these complex chromatin structures, thus altering the behavior of some genes that are stored within it. This observation supports the well-established link between asthma and certain stimulants in the environment which include pollution and allergens.
CMMT researcher Dr. Michael Kobor and his team are dedicated to the study of chromatin structures and their potential role in asthma and a number of other cardiopulmonary diseases. In collaboration with population health scientists, Dr. Kobor works to uncover the underlying genetic and epigenetic causes of asthma, while focusing on how changes in chromatin structure can influence the onset, progression, and severity of the disease.