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Invited Review: Complexity Of Factors Modulating Airway Narrowing In Vivo: Relevance To Assessment Of Airway Hyperresponsiveness

Vito Brusasco, Riccardo Pellegrino

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In vivo, the airway response to constrictor stimuli is the net result of a complex array of factors, some facilitating and some opposing airway narrowing, which makes the interpretation of bronchial challenges far from being straightforward. This review begins with a short description of the complex mechanisms of airway smooth muscle activation and force generation as the starting events for airway narrowing. It then focuses on gain factors modulating airway smooth muscle shortening and on the geometric factors determining the magnitude of reduction in airway caliber in vivo. Finally, in light of the evidence that mechanical modulation of airway smooth muscle tone and airway narrowing is at least as important as the inflammatory contractile mediators in the pathogenesis of airway hyper-responsiveness, the implications for the interpretation of bronchial challenges in clinical settings are discussed.