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Eur J Pharm Biopharm. 2013 Jun;84(2):394-400. doi: 10.1016/j.ejpb.2012.12.014. Epub 2013 Jan 9.

In vitro and ex vivo models of human asthma.

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  • 1Brooke Laboratory, Clinical and Experimental Sciences and the Southampton NIHR, Respiratory Biomedical Research Unit, University of Southampton, University Hospital Southampton, Southampton, United Kingdom. C.Blume@soton.ac.uk


Asthma is an inflammatory disorder of the conducting airways which undergo distinct structural and functional changes leading to non-specific bronchial hyperresponsiveness (BHR) and airflow obstruction that fluctuate over time. It is a complex disease involving multiple genetic and environmental influences whose multifactorial interactions can result in a range of asthma phenotypes. Since our understanding of these gene-gene and gene-environment interactions is very poor, this poses a major challenge to the logical development of 'models of asthma'. However, use of cells and tissues from asthmatic donors allows genetic and epigenetic influences to be evaluated and can go some way to reflect the complex interplay between genetic and environmental stimuli that occur in vivo. Current alternative approaches to in vivo animal models involve use of a plethora of systems ranging from very simple models using human cells (e.g. bronchial epithelial cells and fibroblasts) in mono- or co-culture, whole tissue explants (biopsies, muscle strips, bronchial rings) through to in vivo studies in human volunteers. Asthma research has been greatly facilitated by the introduction of fibreoptic bronchoscopy which is now a commonly used technique in the field of respiratory disease research, allowing collection of biopsy specimens, bronchial brushing samples, and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid enabling use of disease-derived cells and tissues in some of these models. Here, we will consider the merits and limitations of current models and discuss the potential of tissue engineering approaches through which we aim to advance our understanding of asthma and its treatment.

Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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