Asthmatics with a severe form of the disease are frequently refractory to standard medications such as inhaled corticosteroids, underlining the need for new treatments to prevent the occurrence of potentially life-threatening episodes. A major obstacle in the development of new treatments for severe asthma is the heterogeneous pathogenesis of the disease, which involves multiple mechanisms and cell types. Furthermore, new therapies might need to be targeted to subgroups of patients whose disease pathogenesis is mediated by a specific pathway. One approach to solving the challenge of developing new treatments for severe asthma is to use experimental mouse models of asthma to address clinically relevant questions regarding disease pathogenesis. The mechanistic insights gained from mouse studies can be translated back to the clinic as potential treatment approaches that require evaluation in clinical trials to validate their effectiveness and safety in human subjects. Here, we will review how mouse models have advanced our understanding of severe asthma pathogenesis. Mouse studies have helped us to uncover the underlying inflammatory mechanisms (mediated by multiple immune cell types that produce Th1, Th2 or Th17 cytokines) and non-inflammatory pathways, in addition to shedding light on asthma that is associated with obesity or steroid unresponsiveness. We propose that the strategy of using mouse models to address clinically relevant questions remains an attractive and productive research approach for identifying mechanistic pathways that can be developed into novel treatments for severe asthma.
Korean allergology has made great progress in keeping pace with global scientific advances in spite of a short history. Outstanding academic and scientific researches have been performed in a variety of allergy fields in Korea. Epidemiologic studies revealed increasing prevalence of asthma and allergic diseases and considerable morbidity and mortality in Korea. Novel inhalant allergens such as citrus red mite and two-spotted spider mite as causes of asthma and allergic rhinitis have been discovered and reported in Korea. Bidirectional translational researches have been performed and are underway to elucidate the pathogenesis of asthma and allergy, mechanisms of airway inflammation and remodeling, and new therapeutic modalities for asthma and allergic diseases. Experimental asthma models of different phenotypes according to exposed levels of lipopolysaccharide or double-stranded RNA suggested the crucial role of the innate immunity in the development of allergic airway inflammation and a new insight for asthma pathogenesis, in which both Th1 and Th2 inflammation are involved. In the field of genetic researches, numerous genetic associations with asthma and asthma-related phenotypes, such as atopy, IgE production, and airway hyperresponsiveness, have been demonstrated in Korean population. The Easy Asthma Management (EAM) program, a computer-assisted asthma management program, is anticipated to facilitate the achievement of more successful clinical outcomes by filling the gaps between guidelines and actual practices. The Integration of these multi-disciplinary allergy research resources and translation of scientific achievements to the bedside and society will lead to better allergy and asthma control in Korea.
Allergy; asthma; Korea
Asthma is on the rise despite intense, ongoing research underscoring the need for new scientific inquiry. In an effort to provide unbiased insight into disease pathogenesis, we took an approach involving expression profiling of lung tissue from mice with experimental asthma. Employing asthma models induced by different allergens and protocols, we identified 6.5% of the tested genome whose expression was altered in an asthmatic lung. Notably, two phenotypically similar models of experimental asthma were shown to have distinct transcript profiles. Genes related to metabolism of basic amino acids, specifically the cationic amino acid transporter 2, arginase I, and arginase II, were particularly prominent among the asthma signature genes. In situ hybridization demonstrated marked staining of arginase I, predominantly in submucosal inflammatory lesions. Arginase activity was increased in allergen-challenged lungs, as demonstrated by increased enzyme activity, and increased levels of putrescine, a downstream product. Lung arginase activity and mRNA expression were strongly induced by IL-4 and IL-13, and were differentially dependent on signal transducer and activator of transcription 6. Analysis of patients with asthma supported the importance of this pathway in human disease. Based on the ability of arginase to regulate generation of NO, polyamines, and collagen, these results provide a basis for pharmacologically targeting arginine metabolism in allergic disorders.
Viruses are the predominant infectious cause of asthma exacerbations in the developed world. In addition, recent evidence strongly suggests that viral infections may also have a causal role in the development of childhood asthma. In this article, we will briefly describe the general perception of how the link between infections and asthma has changed over the last century, and then focus on very recent developments that have provided new insights into the contribution of viruses to asthma pathogenesis. Highlighted areas include the contribution of severe early life viral infections to asthma inception, genetic determinants of severe viral infections in infancy, the differences in innate and adaptive immune system cytokine responses to viral infection between asthmatic and nonasthmatic subjects, and a potential vaccine strategy to prevent severe early life virally-induced illness.
Rationale: Distinct sets of corticosteroid-unresponsive genes modulate disease severity in asthma.
Objectives: To identify corticosteroid-unresponsive genes that provide new insights into disease pathogenesis and asthma therapeutics.
Methods: Experimental murine asthma was induced by nasal administration of house dust mite for 5 days per week. Dexamethasone and apolipoprotein E (apo E) mimetic peptides were administered via osmotic minipumps.
Measurements and Main Results: Genome-wide expression profiling of the lung transcriptome in a house dust mite–induced model of murine asthma identified increases in apo E mRNA levels that persisted despite corticosteroid treatment. House dust mite–challenged apo E−/− mice displayed enhanced airway hyperreactivity and goblet cell hyperplasia, which could be rescued by administration of an apo E(130–149) mimetic peptide. Administration of the apo E(130–149) mimetic peptide to house dust mite–challenged apo E−/− mice also inhibited eosinophilic airway inflammation, IgE production, and the expression of Th2 and Th17 cytokines. House dust mite–challenged low-density lipoprotein receptor (LDLR) knockout mice displayed a similar phenotype as apo E−/− mice with enhanced airway hyperreactivity, goblet cell hyperplasia, and mucin gene expression, but could not be rescued by the apo E(130–149) mimetic peptide, consistent with a LDLR-dependent mechanism.
Conclusions: These findings for the first time identify an apo E–LDLR pathway as an endogenous negative regulator of airway hyperreactivity and goblet cell hyperplasia in asthma. Furthermore, our results demonstrate that strategies that activate the apo E–LDLR pathway, such as apo E mimetic peptides, might be developed into a novel treatment approach for patients with asthma.
asthma; house dust mite; apolipoprotein E; LDL receptor
Investigation of the lung microbiome is a relatively new field. Although the lungs were classically believed to be sterile, recently published investigations have identified microbial communities in the lungs of healthy humans. At the present time, there are significant methodologic and technical hurdles that must be addressed in ongoing investigations, including distinguishing the microbiota of the upper and lower respiratory tracts. However, characterization of the lung microbiome is likely to provide important pathogenic insights into cystic fibrosis, respiratory disease of the newborn, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and asthma. In addition to characterization of the lung microbiome, the microbiota of the gastrointestinal tract have profound influence on development and maintenance of lung immunity and inflammation. Further study of gastrointestinal-respiratory interactions are likely to yield important insights into the pathogenesis of pulmonary diseases, including asthma. As this field advances over the next several years, we anticipate that studies utilizing larger cohorts, multi-center designs, and longitudinal sampling will add to our knowledge and understanding of the lung microbiome.
To understand the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory disease, we analyzed an experimental mouse model of a chronic lung disease that resembles asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) in humans. In this model, chronic lung disease develops after infection with a common type of respiratory virus is cleared to trace levels of noninfectious virus. Unexpectedly, the chronic inflammatory disease arises independently of an adaptive immune response and is driven by IL-13 produced by macrophages stimulated by CD1d-dependent TCR-invariant NKT cells. This innate immune axis is also activated in the lungs of humans with chronic airway disease due to asthma or COPD. These findings provide new insight into the pathogenesis of chronic inflammatory disease with the discovery that the transition from respiratory viral infection into chronic lung disease requires persistent activation of a novel NKT cell-macrophage innate immune axis.
Last year’s Advances in Pediatric Asthma concluded with the following statement “If we can close these [remaining] gaps through better communication, improvements in the health care system and new insights into treatment, we will move closer to better methods to intervene early in the course of the disease and induce clinical remission as quickly as possible in most children”. This year’s summary will focus on recent advances in pediatric asthma that take steps moving forward as reported in Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology publications in 2010.
Some of those recent reports show us how to improve asthma management through steps to better understand the natural history of asthma, individualize asthma care, reduce asthma exacerbations, manage inner city asthma, and some potential new ways to use available medications to improve asthma control. It is clear that we have made many significant gains in managing asthma in children but we have a ways to go to prevent asthma exacerbations, alter the natural history of the disease, and to reduce health disparities in asthma care.
Perhaps new directions in personalized medicine and improved health care access and communication will help maintain steady progress in alleviating the burden of this disease in children, especially young children.
asthma; asthma control; asthma impairment; asthma risk; asthma severity; early intervention in asthma; biomarkers; genetics; inhaled corticosteroids; leukotriene receptor antagonists; long-acting β-adrenergic agonists; omalizumab; personalized medicine; therapeutics
Asthma in childhood is a heterogeneous disease with different phenotypes and variable clinical manifestations, which depend on the age, gender, genetic background, and environmental influences of the patients. Several longitudinal studies have been conducted to classify the phenotypes of childhood asthma, on the basis of the symptoms, triggers of wheezing illness, or pathophysiological features of the disease. These studies have provided us with important information about the different wheezing phenotypes in young children and about potential mechanisms and risk factors for the development of chronic asthma. The goal of these studies was to provide a better insight into the causes and natural course of childhood asthma. It is well-known that complicated interactions between genes and environmental factors contribute to the development of asthma. Because childhood is a period of rapid growth in both the lungs and the immune system, developmental factors should be considered in the pathogenesis of childhood asthma. The pulmonary system continues to grow and develop until linear growth is completed. Longitudinal studies have reported significant age-related immune development during postnatal early life. These observations suggest that the phenotypes of childhood asthma vary among children and also in an individual child over time. Improved classification of heterogeneous conditions of the disease will help determine novel strategies for primary and secondary prevention and for the development of individualized treatment for childhood asthma.
Asthma; Phenotype; Child
Asthma in obese individuals is poorly understood, these patients are often refractory to standard therapy.
To gain insights into the pathogenesis and treatment of asthma in obese individuals by determining how obesity and bariatric surgery affect asthma control, airway hyperresponsiveness and markers of asthmatic inflammation.
A prospective study of (i) asthmatic and non-asthmatic bariatric surgery patients compared at baseline, and (ii) asthmatic patients followed for 12 months after bariatric surgery.
We studied 23 asthmatic and 21 non-asthmatic patients undergoing bariatric surgery. At baseline, asthmatics had lower FEV1 and FVC, and lower levels of lymphocytes in bronchoalveolar lavage.
Following surgery, asthmatic participants experienced significant improvements in asthma control (asthma control score 1.55 to 0.74, p < 0.0001) and asthma quality of life (4.87 to 5.87, p < 0.0001). Airways responsiveness to methacholine improved significantly (PC20 3.9 to 7.28, p = 0.03). There was a statistically significant interaction between IgE status and change in airways responsiveness (p for interaction term = 0.01), improvement in AHR was significantly related to change in BMI in those with normal IgE (p = 0.02, R2 = 0.46). The proportion of lymphocytes in bronchoalveolar lavage and production of cytokines from activated peripheral blood CD4+ T cells increased significantly.
Bariatric surgery improves airway hyperresponsiveness in obese asthmatics with normal serum IgE. Weight loss has dichotomous effects on airway physiology and T cell function typically involved in the pathogenesis of asthma, suggesting that obesity produces a unique phenotype of asthma that will require a distinct therapeutic approach.
Obesity; asthma; bariatric surgery; weight loss; airway hyperreactivity; CD4 T cell
Aspirin-exacerbated respiratory disease (AERD) refers to aspirin sensitivity, chronic rhinosinusitis (CRS), nasal polyposis, asthma, eosinophil inflammation in the upper and lower airways, urticaria, angioedema, and anaphylaxis following the ingestion of NSAIDs. Epidemiologic and pathophysiological links between these diseases are established. The precise pathogenesis remains less defined, even though there is some progress in the understanding of several molecular mechanisms. Nevertheless, these combinations of diseases in patients classified by AERD constitute a fatal combination and may be difficult to treat with standard medical and surgical interventions. This paper reviews in brief the epidemiology, clinical features, diagnosis, molecular pathogenesis, and specific therapies of patients classified by AERD and postulates future attempts to gain new insights into this disease.
Se is a potent nutritional antioxidant important for various aspects of human health. Because asthma has been demonstrated to involve increased oxidative stress, levels of Se intake have been hypothesized to play an important role in the pathogenesis of asthma. However, significant associations between Se status and prevalence or severity of asthma have not been consistently demonstrated in human studies. This highlights both the complex etiology of human asthma and the inherent problems with correlative nutritional studies. In this review, the different findings in human studies are discussed along with results from limited intervention studies. Mouse models of asthma have provided more definitive results suggesting that the benefits of Se supplementation may depend on an individual's initial Se status. This likely involves T helper cell differentiation and the mechanistic studies that have provided important insight into the effects of Se levels on immune cell function are summarized. Importantly, the benefits and adverse effects of Se supplementation must both be considered in using this nutritional supplement for treating asthma. With this in mind new approaches are discussed that may provide more safe and effective means for using Se supplementation for asthma or other disorders involving inflammation or immunity.
selenium; selenoproteins; asthma; allergic airway inflammation; oxidative stress; immunity
Although asthma is characterized as an inflammatory disease, recent reports highlight the importance of pulmonary physiology outcome measures to the clinical assessment of asthma control and risk of asthma exacerbation. Murine models of allergic inflammatory airway disease have been widely used to gain mechanistic insight into the pathogenesis of asthma; however, several aspects of murine models could benefit from improvement. This review focuses on aligning lung mechanics measures made in mice with those made in humans, with an eye toward improving the translational utility of these measures. A brief description of techniques available to measure murine lung mechanics is provided along with a methodological consideration of their utilization. How murine lung mechanics outcome measures relate to pulmonary physiology measures conducted in humans is discussed and we recommend that, like human studies, outcome measures be standardized for murine models of asthma.
airway hyperresponsiveness; murine; asthma; lung mechanics; translational research
Asthma is a very complex and heterogeneous disease that is characterized by airway inflammation and airway hyper-reactivity (AHR). The pathogenesis of asthma is associated with environmental factors, many cell types, and several molecular and cellular pathways. These include allergic, non-allergic and intrinsic pathways, which involve many cell types and cytokines. Animal models of asthma have helped to clarify some of the underlying mechanisms of asthma, demonstrating the importance of T helper type 2 (TH2)-driven allergic responses, as well as of the non-allergic and intrinsic pathways, and contributing to understanding of the heterogeneity of asthma. Further study of these many pathways to asthma will greatly increase understanding of the distinct asthma phenotypes, and such studies may lead to new therapies for this important public health problem.
Occupational asthma is the most common form of occupational lung disease in the developed world at the present time. In this review, the epidemiology, pathogenesis/mechanisms, clinical presentations, management, and prevention of occupational asthma are discussed. The population attributable risk of asthma due to occupational exposures is considerable. Current understanding of the mechanisms by which many agents cause occupational asthma is limited, especially for low-molecular-weight sensitizers and irritants. The diagnosis of occupational asthma is generally established on the basis of a suggestive history of a temporal association between exposure and the onset of symptoms and objective evidence that these symptoms are related to airflow limitation. Early diagnosis, elimination of exposure to the responsible agent, and early use of inhaled steroids may play important roles in the prevention of long-term persistence of asthma. Persistent occupational asthma is often associated with substantial disability and consequent impacts on income and quality of life. Prevention of new cases is the best approach to reducing the burden of asthma attributable to occupational exposures. Future research needs are identified.
Scientific and technological advances in our understanding of the nature and consequences of human genetic variation are now allowing genetic determinants of susceptibility to common multifactorial diseases to be defined, as well as our individual response to therapy. I review how genome-wide association studies are robustly identifying new disease susceptibility loci, providing insights into disease pathogenesis and potential targets for drug therapy. Some of the remarkable advances being made using current genetic approaches in Crohn's disease, coronary artery disease and atrial fibrillation are described, together with examples from malaria, HIV/AIDS, asthma, prostate cancer and venous thrombosis which illustrate important principles underpinning this field of research. The limitations of current approaches are also noted, highlighting how much of the genetic risk remains unexplained and resolving specific functional variants difficult. There is a need to more clearly understand the significance of rare variants and structural genomic variation in common disease, as well as epigenetic mechanisms. Specific examples from pharmacogenomics are described including warfarin dosage and prediction of abacavir hypersensitivity that illustrate how in some cases such knowledge is already impacting on clinical practice, while in others prospective evaluation of clinical utility and cost-effectiveness is required to define opportunities for personalized medicine. There is also a need for a broader debate about the ethical implications of current advances in genetics for medicine and society.
Unregulated activation of mast cells can contribute to the pathogenesis of inflammatory and allergic diseases, including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis(1;2). Absence of mast cells in animal models can lead to impairment in the innate immune response to parasites and bacterial infections(3–5). Aberrant clonal accumulation and proliferation of mast cells can result in a variety of diseases ranging from benign cutaneous mastocytosis to systemic mastocytosis or mast cell leukemia(6). Understanding mast cell differentiation provides important insights into mechanisms of lineage selection during hematopoiesis and can provide targets for new drug development to treat mast cell disorders,. In this review, we discuss controversies related to development, sites of origin,, and the transcriptional program of mast cells.
Mast cells; transcription factors; GATA; PU.1; Mitf
Oxidative stress plays an important role in the development of airway inflammation and hyperreactivity in asthma. The identification of oxidative stress markers in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) and lung tissue from ovalbumin (OVA) sensitized mice could provide new insight into disease pathogenesis and possible use of antioxidants to alleviate disease severity. We used two-dimensional polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (2D-PAGE) and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to determine the impact of the thiol antioxidant, N-acetylcysteine (NAC), on protein expression in a murine OVA model. At least six proteins or protein families were found to be significantly increased in BALF from OVA-challenged mice compared to a control group: chitinase 3-like protein 3 (Ym1), chitinase 3-like protein 4 (Ym2), acidic mammalian chitinase (AMCase), pulmonary surfactant-associated protein D (SP-D), resistin-like molecule α (RELMα) or “found in inflammatory 1” (FIZZ1), and haptoglobin α-subunit. A total of 9 proteins were significantly increased in lung tissue from the murine asthma model, including Ym1, Ym2, FIZZ1, and other lung remodeling-related proteins. Western blotting confirmed increased Ym1/Ym2, SP-D, and FIZZ1 expression measured from BAL fluid and lung tissue from OVA-challenged mice. Intraperitoneal NAC administration prior to the final OVA challenge inhibited Ym1/Ym2, SP-D, and FIZZ1 expression in BALF and lung tissue. The oxidative stress proteins, Ym1/Ym2, FIZZ1 and SP-D, could play an important role in the pathogenesis of asthma and may be useful oxidative stress markers.
proteomics; asthma pathogensis; N-acetylcysteine; antioxidant; diesel exhaust particle; oxidative stress
The pathogenesis of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) has been claimed to be attributable to increased systemic and local oxidative stress. Detection of the oxidant burden and evaluation of their progression and phenotypes by oxidant biomarkers have proved challenging and difficult. A large number of asthmatics are cigarette smokers and smoke itself contains oxidants complicating further the use of oxidant biomarkers. One of the most widely used oxidant markers in asthma is exhaled nitric oxide (NO), which plays an important role in the pathogenesis of asthma and disease monitoring. Another oxidant marker that has been widely investigated in COPD is 8-isoprostane, but it is probably not capable of differentiating asthma from COPD, or even sensitive in the early assessment of these diseases. None of the current biomarkers have been shown to be better than exhaled NO in asthma. There is a need to identify new biomarkers for obstructive airway diseases, especially their differential diagnosis. A comprehensive evaluation of oxidant markers and their combinations will be presented in this review. In brief, it seems that additional analyses utilizing powerful tools such as genomics, metabolomics, lipidomics, and proteomics will be required to improve the specificity and sensitivity of the next generation of biomarkers.
sputum; condensate; smoking; nitric oxide; 8-isoprostane; biomarker
Asthma is a common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by airway obstruction and hyperresponsiveness. Leukotrienes (LTs) are lipid mediators that contribute to many aspects of asthma pathogenesis. As the LT pathway is relatively steroid-resistant, its blockade by alternative strategies is a desirable component of asthma management. Cysteinyl LT receptor 1 antagonists have been utilized worldwide for more than 10 years, and while their efficacy in asthma is well accepted, their limitations are also evident. In this review, we summarize the biological effects of LTs in asthma, review recent advances in LT receptors, and consider possible new therapeutic targets in the LT pathway that offer the potential to achieve better control of asthma in the future.
asthma; cysteinyl leukotrienes; leukotriene receptor antagonist; 5-lipoxygenase; leukotriene B4
Because asthma has been associated with exercise and ozone exposure, an association likely mediated by oxidative stress, we hypothesized that GSTP1, GSTM1, exercise and ozone exposure have inter-related effects on asthma pathogenesis.
We examined associations of the well characterized null variant of GSTM1 and four SNPs that characterized common variation in GSTP1 with new-onset asthma in a cohort of 1,610 school children. Children’s exercise and ozone-exposure status were classified using participation in team sports and community-specific ozone levels, respectively.
A two SNP model (rs6591255, rs1695 [Ile105Val]) best captured the association between GSTP1 and asthma. Compared to children with common alleles for both the SNPs, the risk of asthma was lower for those with the Val allele of Ile105Val (HR 0.60, 95% CI 0.4, 0.8) and higher for the variant allele of rs6591255 (HR 1.40, 95%CI 1.1–1.9). Asthma risk increased with level of exercise among ile105 homozygotes but not among those with at least one val105 allele (interaction p-value=0.02). Risk was highest among ile105 homozygotes who participated in ≥3 sports in the high-ozone communities (HR: 6.15, 95%CI: 2.2–7.4). GSTM1 null was independently associated with asthma and showed little variation with air pollution or GSTP1 genotype. These results were consistent in two independent fourth-grade cohorts in the study population recruited in 1993 and 1996.
Children who inherit a val105 variant allele may be protected from the increased risk of asthma associated with exercise, especially in high-ozone communities. GSTM1 null genotype was associated with increased risk of asthma.
Oxidative stress; Candidate gene; Asthma genetics; Gene-environmental interaction; Air pollution
Purpose of review
Isocyanates, reactive chemicals used to generate polyurethane, are a leading cause of occupational asthma worldwide. Workplace exposure is the best-recognized risk factor for disease development, but is challenging to monitor. Clinical diagnosis and differentiation of isocyanates as the cause of asthma can be difficult. The gold-standard test, specific inhalation challenge, is technically and economically demanding, and is thus only available in a few specialized centers in the world. With the increasing use of isocyanates, efficient laboratory tests for isocyanate asthma and exposure are urgently needed.
The review focuses on literature published in 2005 and 2006. Over 150 articles, identified by searching PubMed using keywords ‘diphenylmethane’, ‘toluene’ or ‘hexamethylene diisocyanate’, were screened for relevance to isocyanate asthma diagnostics. New advances in understanding isocyanate asthma pathogenesis are described, which help improve conventional radioallergosorbent and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay approaches for measuring isocyanate-specific IgE and IgG. Newer immunoassays, based on cellular responses and discovery science readouts are also in development.
Contemporary laboratory tests that measure isocyanate-specific human IgE and IgG are of utility in diagnosing a subset of workers with isocyanate asthma, and may serve as a biomarker of exposure in a larger proportion of occupationally exposed workers.
antibody; asthma; diagnosis; exposure; isocyanate
One obstacle to developing an effective therapeutic strategy to treat or prevent asthma is that the fundamental causes of asthma are not totally understood. Asthma is thought to be a chronic TH2 immune-mediated inflammatory disease. Epigenetic changes are recognized to play a role in the initiation and maintenance of a TH2 response. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are key epigenetic regulators of gene expression, and their expression is highly regulated, therefore, deregulation of miRNAs may play an important role in the pathogenesis of asthma. Profiling circulating miRNA might provide the highest specificity and sensitivity to diagnose asthma; similarly, correcting potential defects in the miRNA regulation network may lead to new therapeutic modalities to treat this disease.
microRNA; circulating; epigenetics; asthma; biomarkers
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways causing typical symptoms, and the diagnosis is supported by evidence of airflow obstruction which is variable, reversible or inducible. However, standard assessment of lung function with spirometry does not measure dysfunction in small airways which are < 2 mm in diameter towards the periphery of the lung. These airways make only a small contribution to airway resistance under normal circumstances. Nevertheless, there is mounting evidence that pathology and dysfunction in these small airways are implicated in the pathogenesis and natural history of asthma. Using forced oscillation and the multibreath nitrogen washout techniques, uneven ventilation (ventilation heterogeneity) due to small airways dysfunction has been shown to be an important marker of asthma disease activity, even in the absence of abnormalities in standard spirometric measurements. Recent advances in imaging research, particularly with hyperpolarised gas magnetic resonance imaging, have also given insights into the significance and dynamic nature of ventilation heterogeneity in asthma. The challenge is to integrate these new physiological and imaging insights to further our understanding of asthma and facilitate potential new treatments.
Asthma; Small airways; Forced oscillation technique; Multibreath nitrogen washout; Xenon computed tomography; Hyperpolarised gas lung imaging
Imaging of the lungs in patients with asthma has evolved dramatically over the last decade with sophisticated techniques, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET) and single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT). New insights into current and future modalities for imaging in asthma and their application are discussed to potentially shed a clearer picture of the underlying pathophysiology of asthma, especially severe asthma, and the proposed clinical utility of imaging in this common disease.
asthma; imaging; CT chest; MRI