Maturational changes in airway smooth muscle shortening and relaxation. Implications for asthma.
Greater airway responsiveness in healthy juveniles is considered a factor in the higher asthma prevalence at a young age compared with adults. Several studies on the contractile response of airway smooth muscle (ASM) from birth to adulthood have addressed the hypothesis that a maturation of ASM plays a role in juvenile airway hyperresponsiveness. Maturation of distinct ASM properties, i.e. force generation, shortening, and relaxation, has been reported, although the majority of the studies have focused on maturation of maximum force and/or sensitivity to contractile agonists. However, in most animal species maturation of the ability to generate force does not correlate with maturation of airway responsiveness. Ontogenesis of ASM shortening has been less extensively studied and the existing reports emphasize an increase during maturation of tissue passive forces opposing shortening. ASM spontaneous relaxation has been very minimally investigated. We have recently demonstrated that the ability of ASM to spontaneously relax during stimulation is sharply reduced in juvenile airway tissue. It remains to be determined the role of these ASM properties in the onset of childhood asthma and whether specific alterations are induced by the occurrence of obstructive airway diseases in young individuals.
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