Research

Allergy and asthma in immigrant populations

Immigrants who move from a low-risk asthma environment, such as China, to a high-risk region, such as Australia, undergo physiological changes to adapt to the different environment. These changes can include immune function adaptive changes or loss of immunological memory in response to altered exposure to pollutants and pathogens and changes in lifestyles and diets. These molecular immunological changes are a probable cause of the increased development of allergic conditions following migration.

Recent Chinese immigrants from China to Australia are a unique and ideal population to investigate these molecular changes as they are living in ‘a natural experimental setting’, the Western environment. Their time living in that environment can be considered a dose variable. This population represents an exceptional opportunity to examine the main hypothesis, that Western environmental influences have altered epigenetic (DNA methylation), transcriptional (gene expression) and microbiome profiles in humans, and have caused increased allergy and asthma rates in Australia over the past several decades.

The specific aims of this research are to:

  • Investigate molecular immunological changes in Chinese immigrants after living in Australia for several years
  • Compare the microbiome in Australian Born Chinese (ABC) children in Australia and Chinese children in China
  • Investigate epigenetic changes in Chinese immigrants

This work is a collaborative effort between UWA, Curtin University and Telethon Kids Institute:

  • A/Prof Guicheng (Brad) Zhang: GOHaD, UWA & Curtin
  • Prof Peter Le Souëf: UWA
  • A/Prof Belinda Hales: Telethon Kids Institute
  • Aarti Saiganesh: Telethon Kids Institute
  • A/Prof Christopher Peacock: UWA
  • Dr Yong Song: GOHaD, UWA & Curtin
  • Jing Guo: GOHaD, UWA & Curtin
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