Experimental and clinical evidences suggest that oxidants play a role in the pathogenesis of respiratory disorders characterised by chronic airway inflammation such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The respiratory system is chronically exposed to environmental pollutants, including oxidants. Exogenous sources of oxidants are particularly relevant to the pathogenesis of COPD, being cigarette smoke an extremely rich source of oxidants. In addition, the inflammatory cells recruited to the airways of patients with asthma and COPD, have an exceptional capacity to produce oxidants. Many decades of research have produced a significant amount of data indicating pro-oxidative molecular mechanisms putatively relevant in the pathogenesis of the oxidative stress which characterises these diseases, both locally and systemically. As a consequence, a drug therapy able to restore the redox imbalance in asthma and COPD would probably exert clinical and functional benefits. Indeed, currently available therapies for asthma and COPD can exert an inhibitory effect on oxidant production in the airways. However, it is unknown whether the efficacy of the treatment is somehow linked to the pharmacological modulation of the oxidant/antioxidant balance. So far, it appears that the potential role of antioxidant compounds in the treatment of asthma and COPD has not been fully explored.
Keywords: oxidants, asthma, copd, airway inflammation, lung, pollutants, tobacco smoke, oxidative stress.
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