A University of British Columbia researcher says the results of a massive asthma study could lead to new ways of treating or even preventing the disease. The research examined the DNA of more than 142,000 people, both asthma sufferers and non-sufferers to find which genes were susceptible to asthma. Asthma affects more than 300 million people around the world including 10 to 20 per cent of children. It is caused by a combination of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors. Denise Daley, the lead Canadian researcher on the project, said the study found five new genes that were linked to asthma. Previously, there were 21 known asthma-linked genes. She also says it’s the largest ever academic study of asthma genetics and could lead to new ways of tackling the disease. “The biggest thing that is at stake is that by the time many asthmatics develop clinical symptoms … there are biological changes that have happened that are not reversible,” she said. “Rather than treating the disease, in my view, it would be better to prevent it. “By understanding the genetics, can we understand the mechanisms that are involved and prevent it?” Daley says one of the most exciting possible results of the study is the chance to develop a genetic test for asthma that will identify who is at the greatest risk for the disease.