Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is characterized by chronic airflow limitation. This generic term encompasses emphysema and chronic bronchitis, two common conditions, each having distinct but also overlapping features. Recent epidemiological and experimental studies have challenged the traditional view that COPD is exclusively an adult disease occurring after years of inhalational insults to the lungs, pinpointing abnormalities or disruption of the pathways that control lung development as an important susceptibility factor for adult COPD. In addition, there is growing evidence that emphysema is not solely a destructive process because it is also characterized by a failure in cell and molecular maintenance programs necessary for proper lung development. This leads to the concept that tissue regeneration required stimulation of signaling pathways that normally operate during development. We undertook a review of the literature to outline the contribution of developmental insults and genes in the occurrence and pathogenesis of COPD, respectively.
Keywords: alveolar formation; bronchopulmonary dysplasia; emphysema; lung homeostasis; lung repair and regeneration.