New insights into the mechanisms of pulmonary edema in acute lung injury
Abstract: Appearance of alveolar protein-rich edema is an early event in the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Alveolar edema in ARDS results from a significant increase in the permeability of the alveolar epithelial barrier, and represents one of the main factors that contribute to the hypoxemia in these patients. Damage of the alveolar epithelium is considered a major mechanism responsible for the increased pulmonary permeability, which results in edema fluid containing high concentrations of extravasated macromolecules in the alveoli. The breakdown of the alveolar-epithelial barrier is a consequence of multiple factors that include dysregulated inflammation, intense leukocyte infiltration, activation of procoagulant processes, cell death and mechanical stretch. The disruption of tight junction (TJ) complexes at the lateral contact of epithelial cells, the loss of contact between epithelial cells and extracellular matrix (ECM), and relevant changes in the communication between epithelial and immune cells, are deleterious alterations that mediate the disruption of the alveolar epithelial barrier and thereby the formation of lung edema in ARDS.