Study links hormone to asthma-obesity

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Obese people may be prone to asthma because of a hormone called leptin, a new Columbia University study has found.

The hormone, which affects energy, metabolism, fertility and bone mass, also can regulate the diameter of a person's airway. Asthma can occur in those who are obese or anorexic.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center found asthma lessened in obese, asthmatic mice when they were given drugs decreasing parasympathetic tone.

The results, which were published in the journal Cell Metabolism, showed how leptin decreases parasympathetic nervous symptom activity. 

What this means for asthma patients is that a possible treatment may involve a medication that increases leptin-related brain signaling, said author Gerard Karsenty, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of genetics and development at Columbia University Medical Center.

One example is methacholine, also known as Provocholine, which is generally used for bronchial hyperreactivty.

While additional clinical trials are needed, Karsenty's team says findings point the way toward identifying a drug to give to those who have body weight-associated asthma. 

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