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Eur J Cell Biol. 2012 Jun-Jul;91(6-7):590-601. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcb.2011.11.004. Epub 2012 Jan 26.

Models and mechanisms of acute lung injury caused by direct insults.

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Institute of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Medical Faculty of RWTH Aachen University, Wendlingweg 2, Aachen, Germany.


Acute lung injury (ALI) and its more severe form acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) are life-threatening diseases that are characterized by acute onset, pulmonary inflammation, oedema due to increased vascular permeability and severe hypoxemia. Clinically, ARDS can be divided into ARDS due to direct causes such as pneumonia, aspiration or injurious ventilation, and due to extrapulmonary indirect causes such as sepsis, severe burns or pancreatitis. In order to identify potential therapeutic targets, we asked here whether common molecular mechanisms can be identified that are relevant in different models of the direct form of ALI/ARDS. To this end, we reviewed three widely used models: (a) one based on a biological insult, i.e. instillation of bacterial endotoxins; (b) one based on a chemical insult, i.e. instillation of acid; and (c) one based on a mechanical insult, i.e. injurious ventilation. Studies were included only if the mediator or mechanism of interest was studied in at least two of the three animal models listed above. As endpoints, we selected neutrophil sequestration, permeability, hypoxemia (physiological dysfunction) and survival. Our analysis showed that most studies have focused on mechanisms of pulmonary neutrophil sequestration and models with moderate forms of oedema. The underlying mechanisms that involve canonical inflammatory pathways such as MAP kinases, CXCR2 chemokines, PAF, leukotrienes, adhesions molecules (CD18, ICAM-1) and elastase have been defined relatively well. Further mechanisms including TNF, DARC, HMGB1, PARP, GADD45 and collagenase are under investigation. Such mechanisms that are shared between the three ALI models may represent viable therapeutic targets. However, only few studies have linked these pathways to hypoxemia, the most important clinical aspect of ALI/ARDS. Since moderate oedema does not necessarily lead to hypoxemia, we suggest that the clinical relevance of experimental studies can be further improved by putting greater emphasis on gas exchange.

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