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PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e48552. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048552. Epub 2012 Nov 8.

The importance of synergy between deep inspirations and fluidization in reversing airway closure.

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Department of Mathematics, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.


Deep inspirations (DIs) and airway smooth muscle fluidization are two widely studied phenomena in asthma research, particularly for their ability (or inability) to counteract severe airway constriction. For example, DIs have been shown effectively to reverse airway constriction in normal subjects, but this is impaired in asthmatics. Fluidization is a connected phenomenon, wherein the ability of airway smooth muscle (ASM, which surrounds and constricts the airways) to exert force is decreased by applied strain. A maneuver which sufficiently strains the ASM, then, such as a DI, is thought to reduce the force generating capacity of the muscle via fluidization and hence reverse or prevent airway constriction. Understanding these two phenomena is considered key to understanding the pathophysiology of asthma and airway hyper-responsiveness, and while both have been extensively studied, the mechanism by which DIs fail in asthmatics remains elusive. Here we show for the first time the synergistic interaction between DIs and fluidization which allows the combination to provide near complete reversal of airway closure where neither is effective alone. This relies not just on the traditional model of airway bistability between open and closed states, but also the critical addition of previously-unknown oscillatory and chaotic dynamics. It also allows us to explore the types of subtle change which can cause this interaction to fail, and thus could provide the missing link to explain DI failure in asthmatics.

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