Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a common cause of morbidity and mortality. The term is heterogenous and encompasses a number of distinct but often overlapping phenotypes including chronic bronchitis, small airways obstruction, emphysema and in some individuals, a systemic component. Although there have been significant advances in understanding the pathophysiology of COPD, understanding of the role of the inflammation in the pathogenesis of the condition remains in its infancy. Indeed, cytokines that are known to orchestrate the inflammatory response in asthma and other inflammatory diseases are only beginning to be reported in COPD. In this review, we highlight the potential role of cytokines in the development of mucus hypersecretion observed in chronic bronchitis and the morphological changes observed in the small airways and airspaces contributing to the development of airflow limitation and respiratory failure respectively. We report evidence that exacerbations are linked to increased expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and that the wasting and skeletal muscle dysfunction observed in some patients is most probably related to the presence of a systemic inflammatory response. In addition transgenic and gene therapy technology has been used to explore the temporal and co-ordinated role of cytokines in the development of COPD animal models. Enhanced understanding of the events involved in the pathogenesis of COPD will lead to the development of therapy with potential to modify the observed progressive decline in lung function and impact on the development of the illness.
Keywords: Cytokines, Pulmonary Disease, hypersecretion, gene therapy
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