Clinical Reviews in Allergy & Immunology

, Volume 27, Issue 1, pp 35–43

Differences in airway remodeling between asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


DOI: 10.1385/CRIAI:27:1:035

Cite this article as:
Aoshiba, K. & Nagai, A. Clinic Rev Allerg Immunol (2004) 27: 35. doi:10.1385/CRIAI:27:1:035


The functional consequence of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is airflow limitation, which is mostly reversible in asthma and not fully reversible in COPD. In both diseases, inflammatory conditions are associated with cellular and structural changes, referred to as remodeling, and these structural changes may lead to thickening of the airway wall, thereby promoting airway narrowing and airflow limitation. However, the pattern of infilatrated cells and the pattern of structural changes occur differently in the two diseases. In asthma, CD4+, T lymphocytes, eosinophils, and mast cells are the predominant cells involved, whereas COPD, CD8+, T lymphocytes, and macrophages are predominantly involved. In severe cases of asthma and COPD, neutrophil infiltration becomes evident. Regarding structural changes, epithelial injury and early thickening of reticular basement membrane are highly characteristic of the airway wall of asthmatics. Increases in airway smooth muscle mass occur in large airways of severe asthmatics and in small airways of patients with COPD. Thickening of the airway wall, golblet cell hyperplasia, mucous gland hypertrophy, and the luminal obstruction caused by inflammatory exudates and mucous are features of both asthma and COPD. Squamous epithelial metaplasia and airway wall fibrosis are commonly observed characteristics of COPD. Destruction and fibrosis of the alveolar wall occur in COPD but not in asthma. The remodeling processes accompanied by chronic inflammatory infiltrates interact in a complex fashion and contribute to the development of airflow limitation in both asthma and COPD.

Index Entries

T-lymphocyteseosinophilsneutrophilsairway narrowingairway wall thickeningairway remodeling

Copyright information

© Human Press Inc 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.First Department of MedicineTokyo Women/rss Medical UniversityTokyoJapan