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Immunol Cell Biol. 2001 Apr;79(2):178-90.

Role of exhaled nitric oxide in asthma.

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Faculty of Medicine, Sydney University and Department of Respiratory Medicine, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonard's, New South Wales, Australia.


Nitric oxide (NO), an evanescent atmospheric gas, has recently been discovered to be an important biological mediator in animals and humans. Nitric oxide plays a key role within the lung in the modulation of a wide variety of functions including pulmonary vascular tone, nonadrenergic non-cholinergic (NANC) transmission and modification of the inflammatory response. Asthma is characterized by chronic airway inflammation and increased synthesis of NO and other highly reactive and toxic substances (reactive oxygen species). Pro- inflammatory cytokines such as TNFalpha and IL-1beta are secreted in asthma and result in inflammatory cell recruitment, but also induce calcium- and calmodulin-independent nitric oxide synthases (iNOS) and perpetuate the inflammatory response within the airways. Nitric oxide is released by several pulmonary cells including epithelial cells, eosinophils and macrophages, and NO has been shown to be increased in conditions associated with airway inflammation, such as asthma and viral infections. Nitric oxide can be measured in the expired air of several species, and exhaled NO can now be rapidly and easily measured by the use of chemiluminescence analysers in humans. Exhaled NO is increased in steroid-naive asthmatic subjects and during an asthma exacerbation, although it returns to baseline levels with appropriate anti-inflammatory treatment, and such measurements have been proposed as a simple non-invasive method of measuring airway inflammation in asthma. Here the chemical and biological properties of NO are briefly discussed, followed by a summary of the methodological considerations relevant to the measurement of exhaled NO and its role in lung diseases including asthma. The origin of exhaled NO is considered, and brief mention made of other potential markers of airway inflammation or oxidant stress in exhaled breath.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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