Dr. Qingling Duan, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON

Asthma is a multifactorial disease with numerous genetic and environmental risk factors. Using data from the CHILD Cohort Study, we demonstrate that childhood-onset asthma may be determined by polygenic effects of multiple genetic loci (i.e. genetic risk scores, GRS) and interactions with environmental exposures including traffic air pollution (NO2) and breastfeeding until one year of age. Moreover, our study uniquely addresses the complex and dynamic nature of the mother-breastmilk-infant triad by investigating maternal genetics that regulate secretion of human milk oligosaccharides (HMO) in breastmilk, and the protective effects of specific HMOs on genetic risk of asthma and recurrent wheeze among breastfed infants. These findings advance our understanding of the early determinants of asthma and identify modifiable factors such as HMOs, which could offer a personalized approach to reduce asthma risk.

Learning Objectives
At the end of this presentation, attendees will be able to:

  • Identify that risk of asthma is determined by the polygenic effects of multiple genetic loci;
  • Recognize that risk of asthma is modulated by interactions among genetics factors and environmental exposures; and
  • Demonstrate that breastfeeding and breastmilk is not a single homogeneous exposure but that specific breastmilk components can modulate risk of asthma in breastfed infants.

CanMEDs Competencies addressed:
Collaborator, Communicator, Health Advocate, Leader, Medical Expert, Professional, Scholar