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BMC Pulm Med. 2002 Oct 11;2:5.

Amyloid associated with elastin-staining laminar aggregates in the lungs of patients diagnosed with acute respiratory distress syndrome.

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Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Service, Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, Little Rock, AR 72205, USA.



The heterogeneity of conditions underlying respiratory distress, whether classified clinically as acute lung injury (ALI) or the more severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), has hampered efforts to identify and more successfully treat these patients. Examination of postmortem lungs among cases clinically diagnosed as ARDS identified a cohort that showed a consistent morphology at the light and electron microscope levels, and featured pathognomonic structures which we termed elastin-staining laminar structures (ELS).


Postmortem tissues were stained using the Verhoeff-Van Gieson procedure for elastic fibers, and with Congo red for examination under a polarizing microscope. Similar samples were examined by transmission EM.


The pathognomonic ELS presented as ordered molecular aggregates when stained using the Verhoeff-van Gieson technique for elastic fibers. In several postmortem lungs, the ELS also displayed apple-green birefringence after staining with Congo red, suggesting the presence of amyloid. Remarkably, most of the postmortem lungs with ELS exhibited no significant acute inflammatory cellular response such as neutrophilic reaction, and little evidence of widespread edema except for focal intra-alveolar hemorrhage.


Postmortem lungs that exhibit the ELS constitute a morphologically-identifiable subgroup of ARDS cases. The ordered nature of the ELS, as indicated by both elastin and amyloid stains, together with little morphological evidence of inflammation or edema, suggests that this cohort of ARDS may represent another form of conformational disease. If this hypothesis is confirmed, it will require a new approach in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who exhibit this form of acute lung injury.


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