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Lab Invest. 2014 Dec;94(12):1326-39. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2014.119. Epub 2014 Sep 29.

Characterization of a novel model incorporating airway epithelial damage and related fibrosis to the pathogenesis of asthma.

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Fibrosis Laboratory, Department of Pharmacology, Monash University, Clayton, VIC, Australia.


Asthma develops from injury to the airways/lungs, stemming from airway inflammation (AI) and airway remodeling (AWR), both contributing to airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR). Airway epithelial damage has been identified as a new etiology of asthma but is not targeted by current treatments. Furthermore, it is poorly studied in currently used animal models of AI and AWR. Therefore, this study aimed to incorporate epithelial damage/repair with the well-established ovalbumin (OVA)-induced model of chronic allergic airway disease (AAD), which presents with AI, AWR, and AHR, mimicking several features of human asthma. A 3-day naphthalene (NA)-induced model of epithelial damage/repair was superimposed onto the 9-week OVA-induced model of chronic AAD, before 6 weeks of OVA nebulization (NA+OVA group), during the second last OVA nebulization period (OVA/NA group) or 1 day after the 6-week OVA nebulization period (OVA+NA group), using 6-8-week-old female Balb/c mice (n=6-12/group). Mice subjected to the 9-week OVA model, 3-day NA model or respective vehicle treatments (saline and corn oil) were used as appropriate controls. OVA alone significantly increased epithelial thickness and apoptosis, goblet cell metaplasia, TGF-β1, subepithelial collagen (assessed by morphometric analyses of various histological stains), total lung collagen (hydroxyproline analysis), and AHR (invasive plethysmography) compared with that in saline-treated mice (all P<0.05 vs saline treatment). NA alone caused a significant increase in epithelial denudation and apoptosis, TGF-β1, subepithelial, and total lung collagen compared with respective measurements from corn oil-treated controls (all P<0.01 vs corn oil treatment). All three combined models underwent varying degrees of epithelial damage and AWR, with the OVA+NA model demonstrating the greatest increase in subepithelial/total lung collagen and AHR (all P<0.05 vs OVA alone or NA alone). These combined models of airway epithelial damage/AAD demonstrated that epithelial damage is a key contributor to AWR, fibrosis and related AHR, and augments the effects of AI on these parameters.

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