Allergies are certainly the result of both genetic and environmental factors, but there is fresh evidence to suggest that at least one major genetic aberration could be behind everything from hay fever to food allergies to asthma.
Allergies — to dust, pet hair or peanuts — are essentially the product of misdirected immune systems, which start to see innocuous objects as potential threats and launch an intensive assault that can translate into sneezing, wheezing, and even potentially fatal seizures. For decades now, rates of allergies and other immune-related diseases such as asthma and eczema have been rising in the U.S., and the rapid increase suggests that it’s more than just genes, or just changes in lifestyle that made us too clean that are at work.
Now researchers studying the genetics behind the rare tissue disorders Marfan and Loeys-Dietz syndromes have discovered that there may be a common genetic driver behind almost all allergic diseases. Reporting in the journal Science Translational Medicine, scientists from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center and the Johns Hopkins Institute of Genetic Medicine say that they were surprised to find that the same mutation they found in the Marfan and Loeys-Dietz patients may also trigger the immune changes responsible for allergies; most of the patients with the two rare disorders also have higher than normal rates of allergies.