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Airway Remodeling in Asthma*

Antonio M. Vignola, MD, PhD; Franco Mirabella, MD; Giorgio Costanzo, PhD; Rossana Di Giorgi, PhD; Mark Gjomarkaj, MD; Vincenzo Bellia, MD, FCCP; Giovanni Bonsignore, MD, FCCP
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*From the Istituto di Medicina Generale e Pneumologia (Drs. Vignola and Bellia) Cattedra di Malattie Respiratorie, Università di Palermo, Palermo, Italy; and Istituto di Biomedicina e Immunologia Molecolare (Drs. Vignola, Mirabella, Costanzo, Di Giorgi, Gjomarkaj, and Bonsignore), CNR, Palermo, Italy.

Correspondence to: A.M. Vignola, MD, PhD, Istituto di Medicina Generale e Pneumologia, Cattedra di Malattie Respiratorie, Università di Palermo, Via Trabucco 180, 90146, Palermo, Italy; e-mail: vignola.am@iol.it



Chest. 2003;123(3_suppl):417S-422S. doi:10.1378/chest.123.3_suppl.417S
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Chronic inflammation and remodeling may follow acute inflammation or may begin insidiously as a low-grade smoldering response, especially in the case of immune reactions. The histologic hallmarks of chronic inflammation and remodeling are as follows: (1) infiltration by macrophages and lymphocytes; (2) proliferation of fibroblasts that may take the form of myofibroblasts; (3) angiogenesis; (4) increased connective tissue (fibrosis); and (5) tissue destruction. It is clear that changes in the extracellular matrix, smooth muscle, and mucous glands have the capacity to influence airway function and reactivity in asthma patients. However, it is not known how each of the many structural changes that occur in the airway wall contributes to altered airway function in asthma. In asthma, remodeling is almost always present in biopsy specimens (eg, collagen deposition on basement membrane) but is not always clinically demonstrated. Destruction and subsequent remodeling of the normal bronchial architecture are manifested by an accelerated decline in FEV1 and bronchial hyperresponsiveness. This irreversible component of airway obstruction is more prominent in patients with severe disease and even persists after aggressive anti-inflammatory treatment. Airway remodeling appears to be of great importance for understanding the long-term follow-up of asthmatic patients, but there are major gaps in our knowledge. Physiologic correlations with pathology represent a major missing link that should be filled. More long-term studies are needed to appreciate the prevention and treatment of remodeling. Future research therefore should provide better methods for limiting airway remodeling in asthma patients.

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