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Understanding the shared origin between obesity and asthma

Carlsbergfondets internationaliseringsstipendier


There is a well-established link between obesity and childhood asthma, however, the exact shared biological mechanisms between these two diseases are currently unknown. Identification of such shared mechanism are complicated by the heterogenous nature of obesity, which likely consists of different subtypes. Focusing on the relationship between particular obesity subtypes and childhood asthma may provide a clearer delineation of shared mechanisms. The aim of this project is to characterize and understand shared mechanisms between obesity subtypes and childhood asthma, hereby providing insight into mechanisms predating onset of obesity.


Obesity is associated with increased mortality and many comorbidities, presenting one of the biggest health challenges in the 21st century. The window of opportunity for successful prevention likely lies before individuals become obese, as it is a challenging process to reverse, why childhood is a well-established target for the prevention of obesity. The project will examine the relationship between obesity subtypes and childhood asthma to identify specific shared mechanisms predating the onset of obesity. Successful identification of such mechanisms will potentially create new avenues for early-life intervention of asthma and obesity.


The project will be carried out at the Hirschhorn Lab at Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School supervised by professor Joel Hirschhorn. The experimental approach of the project is to characterize subtypes of obesity using data from a genetic association study on obesity based on > 4 million individuals and subsequently examine the early-life effects of these subtypes using clinical data obtained during the first years of life from the COPSAC cohorts. To pinpoint specific shared biological mechanisms, the project will integrate several biological data layers obtained during the first years of life, including longitudinal metabolomics and the gut microbiome.


The growing rates of obesity presents one of the biggest health challenges in the 21st century with an urgent need to prevent obesity in order to alleviate associated health problems and save societal resources. Prevention of obesity requires a switch from generalized to customized treatment options suited for the individual obesity characteristics. The proposed project aims at identifying subtypes of obesity and subsequently understanding subtype-specific shared mechanisms with childhood asthma to discovery therapeutic targets, with the potential for early-life intervention. Furthermore, illuminating early-life effects predating the onset of obesity has the potential to change the general view on obesity from lifestyle to an actual disease, something which may remove the stigmatization and discrimination towards obese individuals.