Frank P. Marowitz
University of New Hampshire at Manchester


View of Normal Airway and Asthmatic ExacerbationPublic Domain Figure Source:

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory lung disease that in the United States alone affects over 25 million people, 7 million of which are children ("What IsAsthma?"). It most commonly starts during childhood and is characterized by recurrent episodes of inflammation and narrowing of the airways as shown in Figure 1. Asthma is associated with symptoms including; wheezing, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and coughing (prevalent at night or early in the morning) ("What Is Asthma?").

Asthma is a complex syndrome with an unknown pathogenesis which results in a lack of tests or biomarkers that definitively diagnose asthma or distinguish it from other diseases (Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention, 2014) Due to this lack of quantitative testing the diagnosis of asthma relies on clinical features, reversible expiratory airflow obstruction, and ruling out alternative diagnoses that may mimic asthma (Global Strategy for Asthma Management and Prevention, 2014).

The causes of asthma include a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. Some of the environmental factors have been have been linked to exposures during specific times in a child’s development (Ober & Yao, 2011). It is estimated that between 35% and 95% of asthma’s onset can be contributed to inherited factors (Ober & Yao, 2011). The increase asthmatic risk has been linked to over 100 genetic loci (Ober & Yao, 2011).