[ASC-media] Asthma and obesity - discovery of the hidden link

Jenni Metcalfe jenni at econnect.com.au
Fri May 20 12:39:12 EST 2005

 The discovery of a new asthma gene may provide an unexpected molecular link between asthma and obesity.


Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Asthma PhD student Bennett Shum, has discovered that the gene aP2, previously thought to be present exclusively in fat cells is in fact highly active in asthma sufferers. 


Mr Shum presented his findings as the CRCA Conference in Melbourne, as part of a showcase of excellence in postgraduate student work. 


In addition to providing further scientific leads into the linkages between asthma and obesity, the discovery has implications for the control and treatment of asthma and its symptoms. 


Using state-of-the-art genechip technology Mr Shum discovered aP2 is active in asthma. Given previous thinking on the aP2 gene the result was both surprising and exciting.


"At first I thought there must be some mistake," Mr Shum said. "However, further testing has confirmed his theory about the role of the aP2 gene in asthma." 


In collaboration with Professor Gokhan Hotamisligil of Harvard University School of Public Health, Mr Shum found genetically modified mice who had no aP2 gene present were almost totally protected from asthma. 


"The products of the aP2 gene exacerbate the effect of an asthma attack," he said.


Mr Shum, currently completing his PhD through the Garvan Institute of Medical Research plans to continue his research and explore further whether aP2 is a key molecular link between obesity and asthma.  


He hopes further testing on aP2 may eventually lead to improved asthma treatment, by inhibiting the function of its gene products on asthma. 


Further details: Bennett Shum, 0411 286 198


The CRC Association Conference is being held at the Sofitel Hotel, 55 Collins Street Melbourne 19-20 May 2005. 


Jenni Metcalfe
Econnect Communication Pty Ltd
PO Box 734
South Brisbane Q 4101

Phones: 07 3846 7111; 0408 551 866; 07 3254 0354 (home)
Fax: 07 3846 7144
Email: jenni at econnect.com.au
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