The research is a collaboration between UBC, BC Children’s Hospital, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, and the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study, which has collected a wide range of health, lifestyle and environmental exposure information from more than 3,500 mothers and children from pregnancy to age five. Funding for the research comes from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Genome British Columbia (Genome BC).
“Childhood asthma is increasing in Canada and around the world, but we’re still learning what causes asthma and why it develops in some children and not others,” said Dr. Stuart Turvey, the principal investigator of the project. Turvey is also a professor in UBC’s Faculty of Medicine, and a pediatric immunologist, senior clinician scientist and director of clinical research at BC Children’s Hospital. “This research will help us learn about the changes that we can make to a child’s environment to reduce their susceptibility to the disease.”
With this funding, Turvey and his colleagues will use data and samples from the CHILD Studyto examine how a child’s environment interacts with the genome, a science known as epigenetics, to affect the development of asthma. The environmental factors that the researchers will examine include traffic-related air pollution and green space in cities, gut bacteria, breastfeeding, and community and family social environments.
This research will build on recent findings out of UBC and at BC Children’s Hospital that found babies with four strains of bacteria in their gut are less likely to develop asthma. Other UBC research has also found that exposure to air pollution during pregnancy and to antibiotics early in life are linked to a child’s asthma risk.
The project was part of $16 million in CIHR funding announced today for research to combat chronic health conditions across Canada. UBC researchers are also involved in projects to combat obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and metabolic conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and others.