Pathobiology of severe asthma

Annu Rev Pathol. 2015;10:511-45. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pathol-012414-040343. Epub 2014 Nov 24.


Severe asthma (SA) afflicts a heterogeneous group of asthma patients who exhibit poor responses to traditional asthma medications. SA patients likely represent 5-10% of all asthma patients; however, they have a higher economic burden when compared with milder asthmatics. Considerable research has been performed on pathological pathways and structural changes associated with SA. Although limitations of the pathological approaches, ranging from sampling, to quantitative assessments, to heterogeneity of disease, have prevented a more definitive understanding of the underlying pathobiology, studies linking pathology to molecular markers to targeted therapies are beginning to solidify the identification of select molecular phenotypes. This review addresses the pathobiology of SA and discusses the current limitations of studies, the inflammatory cells and pathways linked to emerging phenotypes, and the structural and remodeling changes associated with severe disease. In all cases, an effort is made to link pathological findings to specific clinical/molecular phenotypes.

Keywords: airway; epithelium; histology; inflammation; interleukins; pathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Phenotype