Background: Asthma and wheezing disorders in childhood and adulthood are clinically heterogeneous regarding disease presentation, natural course, and response to treatment. Deciphering common disease mechanisms in distinct subgroups requires harmonized molecular (endo-) phenotyping of both children and adult patients with asthma in a prospective, longitudinal setting.
Methods: The ALL Age Asthma Cohort (ALLIANCE) of the German Center for Lung Research (DZL) is a prospective, multi-center, observational cohort study with seven recruiting sites across Germany. Data are derived from four sources: (a) patient history from medical records, (b) standardized questionnaires and structured interviews, (c) telephone interviews, and (d) objective measurements. Objective measurements include amongst others lung function and quantitative assessment of airway inflammation and exhaled breath, peripheral blood, skin, nasal, pharyngeal, and nasopharyngeal swabs, nasal secretions, primary nasal epithelial cells, and induced sputum. In cases, objective measurements and biomaterial collection are performed regularly, while control subjects are only examined once at baseline.
Discussion: The standardized and detailed collection of epidemiological and physiological data, and the molecular deep phenotyping of a comprehensive range of biomaterials in a considerable number of study participants across all ages are the outstanding characteristics of this multi-center cohort. Despite extensive biomaterial sampling, and a recruitment strategy that also includes pre-school children as young as 6 months, attrition is low. In children 83.9%, and in adults 90.5% attended the 12-month follow-up. The earliest time-point to include cases, however, is disease manifestation. Therefore, unraveling mechanisms that drive disease onset is limited, as this question can only be answered in a population-based birth cohort. Nonetheless, ALLIANCE offers a unique, integrative and inter-disciplinary framework with a comprehensive molecular approach in a prospective and identical fashion across ages in order to identify biomarkers and predictors for distinct childhood wheeze and asthma trajectories as well as their further course during adulthood. Ultimately, this approach aims to translate its most significant findings into clinical practice, and to improve asthma transition from adolescence to adulthood.
Keywords: Asthma; Biomarker; Endotype; Pediatric pulmonology; Phenotype; Wheeze.