The studies

  • We have the largest pediatric asthma genetic study of Latino populations in the U.S. The GALA Study includes two study populations:
    • Genetics of Asthma in Latino Americans (GALA I)
    • Genes-environments and Admixture in Latino Americans (GALA II)
  • In the GALA studies we analyze the interaction of ancestry, genetic factors and environmental risk factors that influence asthma and asthma-related phenotypes among Latino ethnic groups.

By gaining a better understanding of the putative genetic and environmental risk factors for asthma and asthma-related phenotypes in these populations, we will help to identify individuals at high risk for asthma morbidity and mortality. We anticipate that our efforts will contribute to a better understanding of the etiology of asthma as it relates to all populations.

Asthma prevalence in the U.S.

  • Asthma is a common respiratory disease caused by the interaction of genetic and environmental factors.
  • Asthma prevalence, morbidity and mortality are:
    • Highest in Puerto Rican
    • Lowest in Mexican Americans (in the U.S.)
    • All other populations (e.g., African Americans, Asians, Caucasians, other Latin American countries) fall in between
  • There are many potential explanations for this ethnic divergence of asthma, including place of birth, acculturation, early life exposures and genetic predisposition.

Admixture in Latinos

  • Latinos are racially mixed (admixed) and share varying proportions of African, Native American and European ancestry.
  • The genetic complexity among Latinos may complicate biomedical research studies in this population. On the other hand, precisely because of this complexity, Latinos also present a unique opportunity to disentangle the clinical, social, environmental, and genetic underpinnings of population differences in health outcomes.
  • The mixed ancestry of Latinos provides the intrinsic variability needed to untangle complex gene-environment interactions which may help to explain the striking differences in asthma prevalence and severity that are seen among Latino ethnic groups and other populations.

Genetic methods

  • Our research will specifically test and apply, for the first time, techniques and methods proposed for genome-wide association analysis to identify genes associated with asthma, asthma severity and pharmacogenetic response to albuterol in Latino populations.
  • We expect to identify novel genetic risk factors for asthma and asthma-related phenotypes in these populations and demonstrate that genome-wide association approach can be used to identify common and racial/ethnic specific disease loci in admixed populations.
  • Our scientific efforts are particularly important because Puerto Ricans have much higher asthma prevalence, higher asthma severity and lower drug responsiveness to albuterol compared to Caucasians and Mexicans in the United States.

This effort is funded by