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The surfactant system of the adult lung - physiology and clinical perspectives

: Hamm, H.; Fabel, H.; Bartsch, W.


The clinical investigator 70 (1992), S.637-657
ISSN: 0941-0198
Fraunhofer ITA ( ITEM) ()
air pollution; lung; phospholipid; pulmonary surfactant; pulmonary system; surfactant; surfactant protein

Pulmonary surfactant is synthesized and secreted by alveolar type 2 cells and constitutes an important component of the alveolar lining fluid. It comprises a unique mixture of phospholipids and surfactant-specific proteins. More than 30 years after its first biochemical characterization, knowledge of the composition and functions of the surfactant complex has grown considerably. Its classically known role is to decrease surface tension in alveolar air spaces to a degree that facilitates adequate ventilation of the peripheral lung. More recently, other important surfactant functions have come into view. Surfactant been demonstrated to enhance local pulmonary defense mechanisms and to modulate immune responsesin the alveolar milieu. These findings have prompted interest in the role and the possible alterations of the surfactant system in a variety of lung diseases and in environmental impacts on the lung. However, only a limited number of studies investigating surfactant changes in human lung disease have hitherto been published. Preliminary results suggest that surfactant analyses may reveal quantitative and qualitative abnormalities of the surfactant system in human lung disorders. It is hypothesized that in the future, surfactant studies may become one of our clinical tools to evaluate the activity and severity of peripheral lung diseases. In certain disorders they may also gain diagnostic significance. Further clinical studies will be necessary to investigate the potential therapeutic benefits of surfactant substitution and the usefulness of pharmacologic manipulation of the secretory activity of alveolar type 2 cells in pulmonary medicine.