A study by a team of boffins at Sydney's Garvan Institute on mouse models has found that a fatty acid binding protein called a P2 is also present in the lung, where it is crucial in controlling inflammation in asthma, thus linking it to obesity.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Bennett Shum who used a technique called gene profiling to discover novel genes that regulate airway inflammation and found very high levels of aP2 in human lung cells that had been tricked into thinking they were undergoing an asthma attack.
Bennett Shum said that the researchers had found that mice who had the gene removed were protected from asthma attacks.
"We were really surprised to find a P2 in the lung. So, we then looked at what would happen when we removed this gene in mouse models: mice without a P2 are protected from asthma attacks," he said.
"These findings suggest that blocking a P2 function is a novel approach for asthma treatment and other inflammatory lung diseases," he added.
Asthma project leader Dr Michael Rolph said that the study was important as studies had shown that the risk of developing asthma triples if people are obese.
"There's up to three times the risk of being asthmatic if you are obese: the more obese, the greater the risk. We know that obese asthmatics who lose weight have large improvements in their asthma," he said.
The research will be published in print in the August issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.