Relationships between Airway Remodeling and Clinical Characteristics in COPD Patients

Andrew Higham, Josiah Dungwa, Natalie Jackson, Dave Singh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Airway remodeling is a cardinal feature of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) pathology. However, inconsistent findings have been reported regarding the nature of proximal airway remodeling in COPD. This is likely due to the heterogeneity of COPD. This study investigated the histopathological features of airway remodeling in bronchial biopsies of COPD patients compared to smoking controls (S). We tested the hypothesis that histopathological features in bronchial biopsies relate to clinical characteristics in COPD patients, focusing on smoking status, symptom burden, lung function, exacerbation risk and inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) use. Methods: We recruited 24 COPD patients and 10 S. We focused on reticular basement membrane thickness (RBM), surface immunoglobulin A (IgA) expression, goblet cell numbers (periodic acid-Schiff [PAS]+), sub-mucosal remodeling markers including collagen 4, 6 and laminin expression, and inflammatory cell counts (CD45+). Results: RBM thickness was increased in frequent exacerbators, IgA expression was reduced in COPD patients with worse lung function, and goblet cell numbers were increased in COPD patients compared to S but with no difference between the COPD subgroups. Collagen 4 expression was associated with higher symptom burden and worse quality of life. Sub-mucosal inflammatory cell counts were increased in COPD non-inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) users compared to ICS users and S. Conclusion: We observed relationships between the histopathological features of airway remodeling and clinical characteristics in COPD patients. Our data highlight the influence of clinical heterogeneity on diverse patterns of airway remodeling in COPD patients.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1992
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 17 Aug 2022


  • IgA
  • basement membrane
  • collagen
  • goblet cells
  • histology
  • immune cells


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