Obesity changes how airway muscles function which can increase the risk of developing asthma, according to a study in American Journal of Physiology—Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology.

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The researchers found that muscle cells from obese donors released more calcium and had greater shortening—a function that occurs during muscle contraction—than the cells from normal-weight donors. In addition, the cells from female obese donors released more calcium than cells from male obese donors.

These results suggest that obesity “imprints on structural cells [or airway smooth muscle cells] a unique signature that can be identified and that may lead to novel targeted approaches to improve asthma management without the use of steroids,” explained Reynold Panettieri Jr, MD, director of the Rutgers Institute for Translational Medicine and Science and corresponding author of the study.

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