Researchers are investigating new links between obesity and asthma

A junior researcher from the University of Western Australia analyzing the link between obesity and asthma has been selected to present her research at the FameLab Western Australia 2021 semifinals.

The competition invites Australia’s brightest minds to discuss their STEM-focused research in a maximum of three minutes.

Carolyn Wang, a third-year PhD student from UWA’s School of Human Sciences, said her research was aimed at finding out how obesity affects asthma, with an emphasis on studying fat in the airway walls.

“I hope to be able to explain how respiratory fat contributes to the development and worsening of asthma, especially in connection with respiratory diseases.”

Carolyn Wang

“Our research group found that this respiratory fat has the potential to build up in overweight and obese patients,” said Ms. Wang.

“My project is about characterizing this fat in order to understand its role in the airways and to determine whether it has an influence on the structure or function of the lungs.”

Although there is a well-established association between obesity and asthma, the underlying mechanisms that cause the association are not well understood.

“I hope to explain how respiratory fat contributes to the development and worsening of asthma, particularly those related to respiratory diseases,” said Ms. Wang.

According to the research team, both obesity and asthma are a growing public health problem, especially because asthmatics who are also obese have more severe asthma symptoms and are less responsive to current therapy.

“If respiratory fat has been shown to contribute to respiratory disease, treatments could be tailored to improve clinical outcomes and the quality of life for patients who are both asthmatic and obese.”

After her Bachelor of Science (Honors), Ms. Wang joined the Airway Physiological Research Laboratory, which sparked her fascination with learning more about the role of the lungs in health and disease.

“I’ve always been interested in respiratory research and metabolic health, so this project was the perfect link between the two,” she said.

“I am very fortunate to work with such a dynamic and supportive team that has encouraged me every step of the way and makes it easy for me to enjoy what I do.”

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