If you were a researcher, and you were studying genetic links between generations, you would be fortunate to study subjects living on the Isle of Wight, England’s largest island, located in the English Channel.
The population there remains genealogically stable, as the residents do not often move from the island. Therefore, someone you begin studying at the age of 2 will still be living in the same place, with the same environmental influences, at the age of 30, or even 50.
Professor Hasan Arshad is a consultant in immunology and allergy at the Southampton General Hospital, located five and half kilometers from the Isle. He initiated a study that involved the entire population of the island (130,000 people,) in an effort to gather in depth data relating to allergic diseases and asthma, and to identify the genetic and environmental factors.
Arshad collected data on the families of the island, and studied in particular the 1500 babies born between January 1989 and February 1990. Study of these subjects began at birth and then followed at the ages of 1 year, 2, 4, 10, and 17 years of age.
At each age, the parents of the children in the study filled out a detailed questionnaire regarding allergies and signs of asthma. Skin prick tests were administered for the fourteen most common allergens. The questionnaires also detailed things like family history of allergies, pets in the home, exposure to second hand smoke, chest infections, breast vs. formula feeding, and housing conditions. IgE blood levels were also tested in the subjects and the parents of the subjects.
The findings were surprising. The genetic link for passing allergies was not the expected percentage based on allergy and asthma prevalence in either or both parents. If both parents experienced allergy or asthma, it would be expected that the child’s predisposition would be increased. However, the genetic connection was made along the lines of gender. If a father experienced allergies and or asthma, his son, not his daughter, would have a higher chance of experiencing the same symptoms. In the reverse, daughter would only have a higher chance of allergy or asthma if her mother had them.
This information was published in August in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
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