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Airway biomarkers of the oxidant burden in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: current and future perspectives.

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Department of Medicine, Division of Pulmonary Medicine, University of Helsinki and Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland.


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.

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