Several genetic variants have been linked with asthma in an international study conducted by the Imperial College London.
The research, which has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was based on 500,000 tests on 10,000 children and adults with the condition, and 16,000 people who do not suffer from asthma.
As a result of the research new targets could be introduced for drugs prescribed to treat asthma.
In the UK one in seven children suffers with the disease, which causes the irritation and narrowing of airwaves, making it more difficult for them to breathe.
Professor William Cookson, from Imperial College London, who co-ordinated the research, said: "Asthma is a complex disease in which many different parts of the immune system can become activated.
"Our study now highlights targets for effective asthma therapies and suggests that therapies against these targets will be of use to large numbers of asthmatics in the population."