New Irish research aims to greatly improve the lives of obese people with asthma

27 Jun 2019

Joint Asthma Society and Irish Thoracic Society “Asthma Research Bursary” awarded

The Asthma Society of Ireland and the Irish Thoracic Society are delighted to announce that the winner of their “Asthma Research Bursary” for 2019 is David Watchorn, lecturer and M.D student at UCD. The bursary will fund David’s research into investigating if a particular hormone can be used to improve the effectiveness of asthma medication for people living with asthma and obesity.

The bursary, which aims to improve the lives of people with asthma and their families, is a joint collaboration between the Asthma Society of Ireland, the Irish Thoracic Society and Novartis Ireland and is worth €10,000. The yearly bursary is open to all medical and allied healthcare professionals based in the Republic of Ireland who are also members of the Irish Thoracic Society. The successful study, entitled, “Evaluation of inflammatory mediators in an asthmatic population on GLP-1 analogue therapy for weight management” will be completed in 2019.

CEO of the Asthma Society of Ireland, Sarah O’Connor, said: “The Asthma Society is delighted to be supporting this research and we would like to extend our warmest congratulations to David, as the calibre of applications received was extremely high. David’s application stood out above the rest and was chosen by members of a panel made up of members of the Asthma Society’s Medical Advisory Group and the Irish Thoracic Society. Asthma has now evolved from being a solitary disease that is treated the same in all people with asthma, to a more varied disease in both how it affects people and the underlying mechanisms causing it. There are 390,000 people with asthma in Ireland and sadly asthma deaths are continuing to rise, with one person now dying every six days as a result of their asthma. That is why it is so important for us to support new research through our bursary and to help us to learn more about potential life changing treatments for people who have asthma and are also obese.”

Professor Ross Morgan, President of the Irish Thoracic Society, said:The Irish Thoracic Society supports education and research into respiratory disease and its management on the island of Ireland. We believe that supporting asthma research and, specifically, encouraging early career investigators into work on asthma is vital to advancing the care of people with asthma in Ireland and is a key positive consequence of funding this bursary.”

Winner of the “Asthma Research Bursary”, lecturer and M.D student at UCD David Watchorn, explains;In general, people who have asthma and are obese do not respond to asthma medication in the same way non-obese people with asthma do. My study aims to find a solution to this problem by looking at the effects of a hormone, already used to treat Type 2 Diabetes, which may potentially hold the key to helping countless people who have asthma and are obese.”

Loretto Callaghan, Managing Director, Novartis Ireland Ltd, said: Novartis are very pleased to be associated with this important bursary for asthma research. We would like to congratulate David and look forward to seeing his completed work.”

Further explaining his study, David Watchorn, said:Links between obesity and asthma have been recognised for a number of decades, but we still have limited understanding as to the reasons for the link between the two conditions. In the mainstay of asthma treatment, inhaled corticosteroids are less effective at controlling asthma in obese individuals than in non-obese individuals, thus there is an unmet clinical need for new treatments in this group. This study aims to research the effects of the hormone glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), on people with asthma who are also obese. This hormone, which is already used to treat Type 2 Diabetes and morbid obesity, suppresses appetite and slows the emptying of the stomach, as well as having effects on other hormones that control blood sugar levels. Studies in mice have shown that GLP-1 appears to reduce the classic 'allergic' inflammation that causes asthma and it is plausible that it may benefit asthma by other means also. We have recruited patients with asthma who are currently taking (or are due to start) GLP-1 therapy for its licensed use, i.e. Type 2 Diabetes and/or morbidity obesity, in order to gain a better understanding of how it may affect some of the inflammatory pathways that are known to be implicated in asthma.”