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Research project

Preconception environment and related epigenetic mechanisms in asthma and allergies

Project overview

The incidence of asthma and allergies increased exponentially with industrialization and urbanization, giving a staggering burden of disease that affects individuals from early childhood. Despite decades of intensive research, we are yet unable to prevent these conditions as the causes are not well understood. A new approach is urgently needed. Our early analyses suggest that the environment before conception might be key to development of asthma and allergies, not least through future fathers, and that puberty might be an important vulnerability period. If true, this will have ground-breaking impact on understanding the asthma and allergy epidemic, and profoundly alter policies in pursue of optimal public health.

The concept of inheritance of environmental risks across generations is novel, and by its nature, difficult to study in humans where generations span decades. However, we have established a high-quality original interdisciplinary team that will utilize and develop unique data resources and methods to address this challenge. This proposal aims to identify determinants of asthma and allergy that operate before conception, time windows of particular susceptibility, and epigenetic mechanisms by which these act. We will use cutting-edge epidemiological, epigenetic and experimental methods to address expertly assessed exposures (oral moist tobacco, smoking, occupation, obesity, diet, anti-bacterial chemicals, microbial diversity and infections, greenspace, air pollution, indoor environment, mental health and quality of life).

The Nordic countries are uniquely placed for multi-generation research in humans, with high-quality national registries covering the last century - the period of the emerging welfare society. This proposal provides an opportunity for my team to build excellence and become a leading international research group in multi-generation research, a field in which Norway has a potential to be a world key player.


Lead researcher

Professor John Holloway PhD, FHEA

Associate V-P Interdisciplinary Research

Research interests

  • Human genetics
  • Epigenetics
  • Respiratory Disease
Connect with John

Research outputs

Negusse Tadesse Kitaba, Gerd Toril Mørkve Knudsen, Ane Johannessen, Faisal I. Rezwan, Andrei Malinovschi, Anna Oudin, Bryndis Benediktsdottir, David Martino, Francisco Javier Callejas González, Leopoldo Palacios Gómez, Mathias Holm, Nils Oskar Jõgi, Shyamali C. Dharmage, Svein Magne Skulstad, Sarah H. Watkins, Matthew Suderman, Francisco Gómez-real, Vivi Schlünssen, Cecilie Svanes & John W. Holloway, 2023, Clinical Epigenetics, 15(1), 131
Type: article
Lisa M. Wheatley, John W. Holloway, Cecilie Svanes, Malcolm R. Sears, Carrie Breton, Alexey V. Fedulov, Eric Nilsson, Donata Vercelli, Hongmei Zhang, Alkis Togias & S. Hasan Arshad, 2022, Clinical & Experimental Allergy, 52(11), 1264-1275
Type: review
Shakiba Eslamimehr, A Daniel Jones, Thilani M Anthony, S Hasan Arshad, John W Holloway, Susan Ewart, Rui Luo, Nandini Mukherjee, Parnian Kheirkhah Rahimabad, Su Chen & Wilfried Karmaus, 2022, Environmental Epigenetics, 8(1), dvac002
Type: article
Gayan Bowatte, Dinh Bui, Sajith Priyankara, Adrian J. Lowe, Jennifer L. Perret, Caroline J. Lodge, Garun S. Hamilton, Bircan Erbas, Paul Thomas, Bruce Thompson, Vivi Schlünssen, David Martino, John W. Holloway, Cecilie Svanes, Michael J. Abramson, E. Haydn Walters & Shyamali C. Dharmage, 2021, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 150(1), 67-74.e30
Type: article
Nils O. Jõgi, Negusse Kitaba, Torgeir Storaas, Vivi Schlünssen, Kai Triebner, John W. Holloway, William G.c. Horsnell, Cecilie Svanes & Randi J. Bertelsen, 2021, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 149(6), 1960-1969
Type: article