Am J Respir Cell Mol Biol. 2011 Dec;45(6):1111-5. Epub 2011 Jun 17.
Everything prevents emphysema: are animal models of cigarette smoke-induced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease any use?
Churg A, Sin DD, Wright JL.
Department of Pathology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. email@example.com
There is a very large number of experimental approaches that prevent cigarette smoke-induced emphysema in laboratory animals, but the few similar treatments that have been tried in humans have had minimal effects, leading to questions of whether animal models of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are of any use in developing treatments for human disease. We review possible reasons for this problem. First, humans usually get treated when they have severe (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease III/IV) COPD, but animal models only produce mild (Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease I/II) disease that never progresses after smoking cessation, and never develops spontaneous exacerbations (i.e., animal models are not models of severe human disease, and probably can't be used to model treatment of severe disease). Second, animal models have concentrated on emphysema and largely ignored small airway remodeling, but small airway remodeling is an equally important cause of airflow obstruction. In addition, small airway remodeling and emphysema are independent responses to smoke, and some experimental animal treatments prevent both lesions, but many do not. Third, animal models are typically Day 1 of smoke exposure "prevention" models, but humans are always treated well along in the course of their disease; thus, any human treatment will be an intervention, and not a prevention. We propose that animal models should examine both emphysema and small airway remodeling, and that experiments should include a relatively late intervention arm. This approach, combined with the realization that human COPD probably needs early rather than late treatment, may make development of treatments based on animal models more relevant.