Research on asthma pathophysiology over the past decade has expanded the complex repertoire involved in the pathophysiology of asthma to include inflammatory, immune and structural cells, as well as a wide range of mediators. Studies have identified a role for connective and other mesenchymal tissues involved in airway remodeling. Recent findings have implicated the innate immune response in asthma and have revealed interesting patterns of interaction between the innate and adaptive immune response and the associated complex chronic inflammatory reaction. New immune cell populations have also been added to this repertoire, including Tregs, natural killer T cells and Th17 cells. The role of the eosinophil, a prominent pathological feature in most asthma phenotypes, has also been expanding to include roles such as tissue modifiers and immune regulators via a number of fascinating and hitherto unexplored mechanistic pathways. In addition, new and significant roles have been proposed for airway smooth muscle cells, fibroblasts, epithelial and endothelial cells. Tissue remodeling is now considered an integral element of asthma pathophysiology. Finally, an intricate network of mediators, released from both immune and inflammatory cells, including thymus stromal lymphopoietin and matrix metalloproteinases, have added to the complex milieu of asthma immunity and inflammation. These findings have implications for therapy and the search for novel strategies towards better disease management. Sadly, and perhaps due to the complex nature of asthma, advances in therapeutic discoveries and developments have been limited. Thus, understanding the precise roles played by the numerous dramatis personae in this odyssey, both individually and collectively within the context of asthma pathophysiology, continues to pose new challenges. It is clear that the next stage in this saga is to embark on studies that transcend reductionist approaches to involve system analysis of the complex and multiple variables involved in asthma, including the need to narrow down the phenotypes of this condition based on careful analysis of the organs (lung and airways), cells, mediators and other factors involved in bronchial asthma.
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