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Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are characterised by airflow obstruction, airway remodelling (measurable structural change) and inflammation. The present review will examine the relationship between airway remodelling in these two conditions with respect to symptoms, abnormal lung function, airway hyperresponsiveness and decline in lung function. The potential for remodelling to be a protective response will also be discussed. Asthma is associated with variable symptoms and changes in lung function and also fixed abnormalities of lung function and an increased rate of decline in lung function with age. There is a relative preservation of the relaxed airway lumen dimensions, prominent thickening of the smooth muscle layer and reduced airway distensibility. The severity of asthma is related to the degree of airway remodelling, which is most marked in cases of fatal asthma. In COPD, symptoms are persistent and predictable but also progressive and are related to fixed abnormalities of lung function. Remodelling is associated with narrowing of the airway lumen and an increased thickness of the airway wall, although not usually to the extent seen in asthma. COPD is most often due to smoking where there is also remodelling of the parenchyma that may contribute to symptoms.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Respir J

Publication Date





134 - 155


Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Aging, Animals, Asthma, Basement Membrane, Female, Humans, Lung, Male, Middle Aged, Pulmonary Disease, Chronic Obstructive, Respiration Disorders, Respiratory System