Bronchial asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) remain a global health problem with significant morbidity and mortality. The changes in bronchial microvasculature that occurin asthma and COPD contribute to airway wall remodeling. Angiogenesis seems to be more prevalent in asthma and vasodilatation seemsmore relevant in COPD while vascular leak is present in both diseases.
Recently, there has been increased interest in the vascular component of airway remodeling in chronic bronchial inflammation of asthma and COPD although its role in the progression of the diseases has not been fully elucidated. Various cells andmediators are involved in the vascular remodeling in asthma and COPD while proinflammatory cytokines and growth factors exert angiogenic and antiangiogenic effects.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a key regulator of blood vessel growth mainly in asthma but also in COPD. In asthmatic airways VEGF promotes proliferation and differentiation of endothelial cells and induces vascular leakage and permeability. It has also been involved in enhanced allergic sensitization, upregulated subsequent T-helper-2 type inflammatory responses, chemotaxis for monocytes and eosinophils, and airway oedema. Impaired VEGF signaling has been associated with emphysema in animal models.
Studies on lung biopsies have shown a decreasing effect of anti-asthma drugs to the vascular component of airway remodeling. There is less available evidence on the effect of the currently used drugs on airway microvascular network in COPD.
This review article explores the current knowledge regarding vascular biomarkers in asthma and COPD as well as the therapeutic implications of these mediators.