In a recent study, researchers from Rutgers University found that obesity changes how airway muscles function, which increases the risk of developing asthma.
The prevalence of asthma and obesity has grown considerably in the United States in recent years.
Obesity is a big risk factor for asthma because the inflammation of the airways occurs in people with a high body mass index (BMI).
In addition, people with obesity have a higher risk of severe asthma, decreased disease control, and decreased response to corticosteroids therapy.
Previous research has shown that some people with obesity may have a type of asthma that is not caused by airway inflammation, but by hyper-responsiveness.
This is a higher-than-normal response to an allergen—in the airway smooth muscle.
Hyper-responsiveness could cause the airways to narrow, obstructing ease of breathing, and can occur when the muscles contract or begin to spasm.
In the current study, the team combined human airway smooth muscle cells with histamine, a chemical the immune system makes in response to an allergen.
They also used carbachol, a drug that stimulates the part of the nervous system that controls the airways.
They stimulated airway cells with these substances and found it caused the cells to release calcium, which mimics muscle contraction.
Moreover, muscle cells from obese donors released more calcium and had greater shortening than the cells from normal-weight donors. It is a function that occurs during muscle contraction.
The researchers also found the cells from female obese donors released more calcium than cells from male obese donors.
The researchers suggest that obesity makes a unique impact on the airway smooth muscle cells, which can lead to new ways to improve asthma management without the use of steroids.
Reynold Panettieri Jr., director of the Rutgers University Institute for Translational Medicine and Science, is a corresponding author of the paper.
The study is published in the Journal of Physiology—Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.
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