Investigating safe experimental protocols for older adults with asthma

Findings from this paper could be used to develop technologies that improve care for older adults with asthma

TORONTO–New study from the KITE Research Institute at UHN investigated the effects of exercise and cold weather on middle-aged and senior adults with asthma in an experimental setting.  

Individuals with asthma may have difficulty breathing while exercising and in cold temperatures as a result of their airways narrowing.

The study suggests exposing people with asthma to temperatures of 0°C is a safe and reliable way to replicate the narrowing of airways in experiments.

These findings, which were published in Biomedical Engineering OnLine, could be used to develop technologies that monitor breathing difficulties older adults with asthma experience during everyday activities and in cold weather.

The International Conference on Aging, Innovation & Rehabilitation (ICAIR) partnered with BioMedical Engineering OnLine to publish a special edition of the journal featuring full-length papers of the highest scoring abstracts from the conference.

The ICAIR organizing committee connected with the paper’s first author KITE trainee Shaghayegh Chavoshian to learn more her team's findings.

Which patient groups are most affected by this? 

Persons with asthma may experience excessive airway narrowing due to exercise or exposure to cold air, worsening their daily functionality. In this research, we studied the effects of exercise and cold weather on middle-aged and senior adults with asthma in an experimental setting.  

 What did you find? 

Our findings suggest that exposure to cold temperatures of 0°C could serve as a reliable method in the experimental protocol for inducing airway narrowing in asthma. However, the impact of exercise on airway narrowing was more variable among participants. We also found that both objective and subjective measures are required to have a better understanding of the burden of exercise and cold temperature on airway narrowing and lung function in asthma. 

 Why does this matter? 

It is not clear what types of exercise or temperature challenges, or their combination may be an effective test to induce airway narrowing in persons with asthma, while remaining safe and achievable for them, especially for older adults who may have more restricted exercise capabilities. Understanding these triggers in the experimental protocol is essential for the successful management of asthma and reduce the burden of asthma. 

 What is the potential impact? 

In the future, this experimental protocol can be used to develop technologies to assess physiological monitoring specifically electrocardiogram and respiration signals to estimate airway narrowing during everyday activities specifically in cold weather in older adults with asthma.

Research Spotlight: 
Experimental protocol randomized cross-over study

KITE Research Institute trainee, Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at University of Toronto

Name of Publication:
Designing and validating an experimental protocol to induce airway narrowing in older adults with and without asthma

Name of Journal:
Biomedical Engineering Online