The lung is the organ with the highest exposure to ambient air in the entire human architecture. Due to its large surface area and blood supply, the lung is susceptible to oxidative injury in the form of myriads of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and free radicals. In order to provide defense against the oxidative burden, the lungs produce various endogenous agents called antioxidants. The antioxidant species help the lungs ward off the deleterious consequences of a wide variety of oxidants/ROS, either of endogenous or environmental origin. Several mechanisms are related to the potential connection between COPD and oxidative stress. One of the most important actions of the oxidative stress is the influence of the molecular mechanisms involved in the expression proinflammatory genes. There is plenty of evidence supporting an imbalance between oxidants and antioxidants in the lung and systemic circulation of smokers and COPD patients. Detection of the oxidative burden and evaluation of their progression and phenotypes by oxidative stress biomarkers have proven challenging and difficult. Both invasive and noninvasive techniques have provided different biomarkers which contribute to the oxidative burden of the airways. An effective wide-spectrum antioxidant therapy with bioavailability is urgently needed to control the local and systemic oxidative burst in COPD. In that direction, several antioxidant agents have been evaluated as potential candidates for the management of COPD. However, despite some encouraging results, clinical trials so far have failed to elaborately define the type of antioxidant, the regimen and the time period of treatment that may improve clinically meaningful outcomes in patients with COPD.
Keywords: Oxidative stress, COPD, antioxidants, pathophysiology, biomarkers, inflammation, Reactive Oxygen Species, smoker, exacerbation, exhaled breath condensate, brochoalveolar lavage, glutathione, polyphenols
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