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ECU researchers (from left) Dr. Robert Lust, Surovi Hazarika and Dr. Michael Van Scott, discovered links between the inflammation associated with asthma and the cardiovascular system. (Contributed photo)
Heart, Asthma Link Found

By Doug Boyd

ECU researchers have found a link between asthma-related inflammation and heart and blood vessel illness.

The illnesses, such as congestive heart failure, angina and vasculitis, or inflammation of blood vessels, previously had been attributed to medications used to treat asthma.

Researchers with the Department of Physiology at the Brody School of Medicine discovered that inflammation associated with asthma affects the heart’s recovery from a heart attack, confirming growing evidence that indicates asthma may affect the cardiovascular system.

“The findings are clinically important because they provide the first evidence of a direct contribution of asthmatic conditions to cardiovascular complications, independent of any asthma drug therapy,” said Surovi Hazarika, a physiology graduate student and lead author of the study.

“If the findings are confirmed in human trials, asthma could be identified as a potential risk factor for post-operative complications and recurrent events following such cardiology interventions as angioplasty.”

Hazarika presented the research at the 35th Congress of the International Union of Physiological Sciences in San Diego this spring.

Dr. Michael Van Scott, professor of physiology; and Dr. Robert Lust, professor and chair of the physiology department, also participated in the research. The research is part of a collaborative project between Lust, who studies acute coronary syndromes, associated with a prolonged deficit in blood flow to the heart; and Van Scott, who studies lung diseases. 

“The goal was to investigate the inflammatory mechanisms underlying the asthma-associated increase in cardiac injury following a heart attack,” Hazarika said. These findings could lead to better treatments for people with asthma and heart or blood vessel disease.

 “And in the longer term, identification of the precise cause of cardiac changes induced by asthma and the appropriate therapeutic targets should provide better, specific alternatives for patients symptomatic for both asthma and cardiovascular disease,” she said.

Previous studies have shown blood levels of certain markers of inflammation are related to increased risk of heart and vessel problems. Inflammation also underlies asthma, which is characterized by higher numbers of inflammatory cells in airways and other parts of the respiratory system. Earlier studies from the Van Scott-Lust laboratory showed the amount of damaged heart tissue increases after an acute heart attack in laboratory animals with asthma symptoms.

This page originally appeared in the July 15, 2005 issue of Pieces of Eight. Complete issue is archived at http://www.ecu.edu/news/poe/archives.cfm.