Azithromycin has lung barrier protective effects in a cell model mimicking ventilator-induced lung injury

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Jon P. Joelsson, Iwona T. Myszor, Snaevar Sigurdsson, Fredrik Lehmann, Clive P. Page, Gudmundur H. Gudmundsson, Thorarinn Gudjonsson, Sigurbergur Karason
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Azithromycin (AZM) is a broad-spectrum antibiotic widely used to treat infections. AZM also has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory functions unrelated to its antibacterial activity that contribute to the effectiveness of this drug in chronic respiratory diseases. The mechanisms behind these beneficial effects are not yet fully elucidated. We have previously shown that AZM enhances barrier integrity of bronchial epithelial cells and directs them towards epidermal differentiation.
In this study, we analyzed the effect of AZM pre-treatment of human bronchial and alveolar derived cell lines on mechanical stress in a cyclical pressure air-liquid interface device (CPAD) that models the disruption of the epithelial barrier with increased inflammatory response in lung tissue, which is associated with ventilator-induced lung injury (VILI). Immunostaining and electron microscopy showed that barrier integrity of the epithelium was compromised by cyclically stressing the cells but maintained when cells had been pre-treated with AZM. Lamellar body formation was revealed in AZM pre-treated cells, possibly further supporting the barrier-enhancing effects. RNA sequencing showed that the inflammatory response was attenuated by AZM treatment before cyclical stress. YKL-40, an emerging inflammatory marker, increased both due to cyclical stress and upon AZM treatment. These data confirm the usefulness of the CPAD to model ventilator-induced lung injury and suggest that AZM has barrier protective and immunomodulatory effects, attenuating the inflammatory response during mechanical stress, and might therefore be lung protective during mechanical ventilation. The model could be used to assess further drug candidates that influence barrier integrity and modulate inflammatory response.

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How to Cite
Joelsson, J. P. (2020) “Azithromycin has lung barrier protective effects in a cell model mimicking ventilator-induced lung injury”, ALTEX - Alternatives to animal experimentation, 37(4), pp. 545–560. doi: 10.14573/altex.2001271.

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