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Genetic Link Found Between Asthma and Obesity

Research results published in the December issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found a strong genetic link between asthma and obesity. Results were based on a study about the relationship between asthma and obesity, which uses a community-based twin registry from the University of Washington in Seattle.

There have been previous research findings that have shown asthma to be more common in obese individuals but this new research goes further to show that the largest portion of the association between the two disorders could be explained by a common set of genetic factors.

Dr. Teal Hallstrand, assistant professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, headed the study. The researchers analyzed both identical and fraternal twins and compared the frequency of asthma and obesity in both. Based on the analysis of the 1001 identical and 383 fraternal same-sex twin pairs within the University of Washington Twin Registry, researchers found that the largest portion of the association between asthma and obesity could be attributed to a common set of genetic factors, referred to as genetic pleiotropy. This finding implies that the same genetic factors may have a causal influence on both asthma and obesity.

Asthma and obesity are increasingly common disorders and both can be life-threatening if not properly treated. While this research shows a genetic link between asthma and obesity, a fundamental question about the relationship between obesity and asthma remains. The fundamental question is whether the association between asthma and obesity is predominantly genetic or predominantly based on environmental factors.

The genetic researchers of this study also report that the effects of environmental exposures on asthma and obesity are likely to occur primarily in the context of a specific genetic background, referred to as gene-by-environment effects. This indicates that the two disorders, while also partially induced by environmental factors the effects of asthma and obesity based on environment are likely to be brought about due to genetic makeup.


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