There is a pressing need for the development of new therapies for emphysema, particularly as no existing treatment has been shown to reduce disease progression. Compounds with a potential activity against the pathological mechanisms postulated to play a role in the development and progression of emphysema should be tested in vivo in animal models of this disease. The choice of the model is of capital importance. While models of elastase-induced emphysema are relatively easy to execute, require low personnel capacity and provide fast results, they also have a limited clinical relevance. On the other hand, models of chronic smoke exposure are timeconsuming, expensive and require high personnel capacity but have a high clinical relevance. Presently, mainly two pharmacological approaches are being considered and investigated in experimental studies. The first approach consists of pharmacological interventions designed to slow down the rate at which alveolar wall is lost in emphysema. In this approach we find anti-inflammatory agents, protease inhibitors and antioxidants. The attempt to reduce lung inflammatory cell infiltration is most appealing since such an effect would also reduce the lung burden of both proteases and oxidants. The second approach is an attempt to reverse the process of alveolar loss by inducing alveolar growth. To our knowledge here only the effects of retinoids and/or retinoid receptor agonists have been investigated. This report presents a selected review of the literature of animal studies using these pharmacological approaches.
Keywords: Cigarette smoke, emphysema, elastase, animal models, anti-emphysema agents
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