Genetic determinants and ethnic disparities in sepsis-associated acute lung injury

Kathleen C. Barnes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Acute lung injury (ALI) is a common and devastating illness that occurs in the context of sepsis and other systemic inflammatory disorders. In systemic illnesses like sepsis, only a subset of patients develops ALI even when pathologic stimuli are apparently equivalent, suggesting that there are genetic features that may influence its onset. Considerable obstacles in defining the exact nature of the pathogenesis of ALI include substantial phenotypic variance, incomplete penetrance, complex gene-environment interactions and a strong potential for locus heterogeneity. Moreover, ALI arises in a critically ill population with diverse precipitating factors and appropriate controls that best match the reference population have not been agreed upon. The sporadic nature of ALI precludes conventional approaches such as linkage mapping for the elucidation of candidate genes, but tremendous progress has been made in combining robust, genomic tools such as high-throughput, expression profiling with case-control association studies in well characterized populations. Similar to trends observed in common, complex traits such as hypertension and diabetes, some of these studies have highlighted differences in allelic variant frequencies between European American and African American ALI patients for novel genes which may explain, in part, the complex interplay between ethnicity, sepsis and the development of ALI. In trying to understand the basis for contemporary differences in allelic frequency, which may lead to differences in susceptibility, the potential role of positive selection for genetic variants in ancestral populations is considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-201
Number of pages7
JournalProceedings of the American Thoracic Society
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2005


  • Acute lung injury
  • Ethnicity
  • Genetics
  • Sepsis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


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