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The Genetics of Asthma in Latino Americans Study

Narrator: This is Science Today. In the United States, populations with the highest and lowest prevalence of asthma are Hispanic. Specifically, Puerto Ricans have the highest asthma prevalence, severity and death rates and Mexican Americans have the lowest. To better understand this phenomenon, Esteban Burchard, an assistant professor of Biopharmaceutical Sciences and Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco led the Genetics of Asthma in Latino Americans, or GALA, study.

Burchard: We've identified several genetic risk factors that were present in one population and were absent in another population. We've identified gene environment interactions and that's fascinating because clearly the environment's changing, but not everyone develops asthma and so what we demonstrated was that individuals who had a genetic risk factor and who were exposed to the right environmental challenge develop more severe asthma. So really it's a gene environment interaction - almost like a two-hit phenomenon, it requires two risk factors to develop more severe disease than if you just had one alone.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.