Sepsis is characterized physiologically by an aberrant systemic inflammatory response and microvascular dysfunction. While appropriate antibiotics and supportive care are essential in the management of the septic patient, therapies targeting specific aspects of the pathophysiology could have a significant impact on the morbidity and mortality associated with both sepsis and its sequlea, including acute lung injury (ALI). We have characterized several mediators of endothelial cell (EC) barrier function that may serve as novel therapies for sepsis-induced microvascular dysfunction including simvastatin, adenosine triphosphate (ATP), sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P), and activated protein C (APC). Notably, APC is already available for the treatment of severe sepsis, however, to date its mechanism of action has been unclear. While distinct in many ways, we have found that these agonists have in common the ability to induce dynamic rearrangement of the EC actin cytoskeleton that corresponds to barrier protection. In addition, we have extended our in vitro findings to relevant animal models of endotoxin-induced acute lung injury and have confirmed beneficial effects of both simvastatin and S1P which are associated with evidence of decreased vascular permeability in this setting. Moreover, our data also indicate that APC effects in sepsis may be largely due to augmentation of EC barrier function affecting decreased microvascular permeability. We speculate that the administration of direct modulators of EC barrier function and microvascular permeability, such as those described here, may ultimately become the standard of care for the septic patient.
Keywords: Acute lung injury, endothelium, simvastatin, adenosine triphosphate, sphingosine 1-phosphate, activated protein C
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