Time Course of the Protective Effect of Inhaled Heparin on Exercise-induced Asthma

Jose Garrigo, Ignacio Danta, Tahir Ahmed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


We have previously shown that heparin attenuates allergic bronchoconstriction in sheep, inhibits anti-IgE mediated histamine release in isolated mast cells, and prevents the bronchoconstrictor response in subjects with exercise-induced asthma (EIA). The purpose of the present study was to determine the pharmacokinetics of anti-asthmatic activity of inhaled heparin in EIA and compare it with cromolyn sodium, a mast cell stabilizing agent with established efficacy in EIA. Nine subjects with a history of EIA were studied on 10 different experiment days. After obtaining baseline pulmonary functions on day 1, subjects performed a standardized exercise challenge to document the presence of EIA. While monitoring minute ventilation and heart rate, exercise challenge was performed on a treadmill with increasing workload, until 85% of predicted maximum heart rate was achieved. The subjects then continued the exercise at that workload for 10 min. EIA was assessed by measurements of specific airway conductance (SGaw) before and after exercise. On experiment days 2-10, the exercise challenge was performed after the subjects inhaled 4 ml of either heparin (20,000 u/ml), cromolyn (20 mg), or placebo solutions with increasing pretreatment intervals of 15 min, 1 h, 3 h, or 6 h in a single-blind, randomized fashion. Maximum decreases in SGaw (mean ± SE) at 3 to 5 min after exercise on control (39 ± 2.1%) and placebo (37 ± 2.6%) days were reproducible. Heparin and cromolyn had no effect on baseline SGaw but attenuated the EIA in a time-dependent fashion. Heparin inhibited the bronchoconstrictor responses to exercise by 58%, 78%, and 67% (p < 0.05) when nebulized 15 min, 1 h, and 3 h, respectively, before exercise; cromolyn attenuated the responses by 37%, 46%, and 41%, respectively, (p < 0.05). Although heparin offered greater protection than cromolyn (at 1 to 3 h), both agents were ineffective when administered 6 h before exercise. These data demonstrate that inhaled heparin prevents EIA for up to 3 h and is more effective than cromolyn.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1702-1707
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican journal of respiratory and critical care medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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