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Am Rev Respir Dis. 1987 Aug;136(2):426-44.

Metabolism and turnover of lung surfactant.


Despite the grave difficulties that beset researchers who are trying to isolate and characterize the various intracellular and extracellular forms of lung surfactant; despite the serious ambiguities of interpretation of experimental data caused by the multicomponent nature of the surfactant; despite the inaccessibility for diagnostic purposes of this material, which functions deep in the lungs; despite the fact that incisive methods of protein chemistry and molecular biology have only recently been brought to bear on lung surfactant; despite all these problems, our knowledge and understanding of lung surfactant are rapidly increasing. We know now that it is a dynamic system with many parts, and that the reserves of these are normally not large and are recycled. We believe that tight metabolic control must exist to maintain these reserves, and we already have experimental techniques to raise or lower the reserves. Heroic methods of surfactant substitution are now being tested in patients whose deficiency or risk thereof is sufficiently desperate, and the results of these clinical trials, if they are carefully documented with lung function data, will add a new dimension to our knowledge of surfactant dynamics. We may expect in the future that more subtle alterations in surfactant function will become detectable and more sophisticated methods to manipulate the system will be invented. Essential to these will be a deeper understanding of surfactant forms, pathways, kinetics, and controls. Fortunately, research on surfactant structure, metabolism, and turnover intrigues many investigators. They, we may hope, will soon provide the necessary information.

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