New research has found that dry airways in animals lead to pathologies characteristic to those of humans with lung disease. Insufficiently hydrated airways are a known component of the development of cystic fibrosis (CF), but this study is the first to link dry airways to acquired lung diseases such as asthma and smoker’s lung. This new information could lead to new approaches for treatment of asthma and smokers lung.

The research was a joint venture from Marcus Mall, MD, of Heidelberg University Hospital and Richard Boucher, MD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Complementary research was conducted to investigate the development of lung disease caused by dehydration of airways in mice from birth to adulthood. In young mice overly dehydrated airways lead to allergic airway inflammation typically seen in asthma. In the adult mice chronic bronchitis and emphysema gradually developed from dry airways.

“We found changes that are not only typical for cystic fibrosis but also for other chronic obstructive lung diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, and emphysema,” says Mall, head of the Heidelberg Cystic Fibrosis Center.

Mall and Boucher conclude that dehydrated airway surfaces could be a significant part of the development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease in humans.