Airway remodeling is a characteristic feature of allergic asthma that is now thought to contribute to airway dysfunction and, ultimately, to clinical symptoms. A prevalent hypothesis holds that eosinophil-derived transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) is a predominant underlying mechanism driving the development of remodeling and thus, represent promising targets for therapeutic intervention. This notion is supported by in vivo evidence from loss of function experiments conducted in animal models employing the surrogate allergen ovalbumin (OVA), and by indirect evidence from studies in human asthmatics. However, it is important to note that various studies in OVA systems have reported disconnects between eosinophils, TGF-β and allergic remodeling. Moreover, recent investigations in a mouse model induced by respiratory exposure to a house dust mite extract have shown that remodeling can develop independently of TGF-β. These findings challenge the above hypothesis and suggest that the mechanisms governing remodeling may be context specific. In addition to TGF-β and eosinophils, several other factors have been implicated in the development of airway remodeling. Among these, interleukin (IL)-13 may be of particular importance given its role in type-2 immunity and in the tissue repair/fibrotic response. This review will appraise the evidence pertaining to the roles of TGF-β, eosinophils and IL-13 in allergic remodeling, and will suggest that identifying robust targets for therapeutic intervention might benefit from a reconsideration of our approach to understanding remodeling.
Keywords: TGF-β, eosinophils, IL-13, allergy, airway remodeling, asthma, therapy, inflammation
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