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Eur Respir J. 1997 Sep;10(9):1983-8.

Pulmonary surfactant in cystic fibrosis.

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  • 1Kinderpoliklinik, Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany.


Cystic fibrosis (CF) leads to a chronic inflammation of the airways with significant air flow limitations developing early in the course of the disease. As a well-functioning pulmonary surfactant is necessary to keep the alveoli and the small conducting airways open during expiration, we hypothesized that the biochemical and biophysical properties of surfactant may be impaired in CF. Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid obtained during a clinically stable period was analysed from 20 CF patients (5.9-20 yrs) and 17 healthy children and adults. CF patients had significantly elevated total and polymorphonuclear neutrophil cell counts, whereas the concentrations of total protein and phospholipids did not differ from controls. The percentage of surface active phospholipids, phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylglycerol, and the concentration of surfactant protein A were significantly reduced in CF patients. Surfactant protein B was unchanged. Although the relative proportion of large aggregates was higher in CF, their surface active properties were inferior, as assessed in the pulsating bubble surfactometer. Because the capacity of CF lavage fractions to inhibit surfactant function was the same as that of controls, impaired minimal surface tension was more likely to be due to the biochemical alterations detected, than to inhibition of a well-functioning surfactant. The impaired pulmonary surfactant system in clinically stable patients with cystic fibrosis is in agreement with the view that surfactant dysfunction may contribute to lung disease in cystic fibrosis.

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