Anti-neutrophil-elastase defenses of the lower respiratory tract in alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency directly augmented with an aerosol of alpha 1-antitrypsin

Ann Intern Med. 1989 Aug 1;111(3):206-12. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-111-3-206.


Study objective: To determine if aerosolization of purified human plasma alpha 1-antitrypsin is an effective means for increasing lower respiratory anti-neutrophil-elastase defenses in alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency.

Design: Nonrandomized, before-and-after trial with a 7-day treatment period. Companion studies in animals to determine lung epithelial permeability to alpha 1-antitrypsin.

Patients: Twelve patients with homozygous Z-type alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency and mild to moderate emphysema.

Interventions: Aerosol administration of human plasma alpha 1-antitrypsin, 100 mg every 12 hours for 7 days. Single, 100-mg aerosol dose to anesthetized sheep with indwelling thoracic lymph duct catheters for direct assessment of lung permeability.

Measurements and main results: Treatment resulted in increased alpha 1-antitrypsin levels in the lung epithelial lining fluid (0.28 +/- 0.07 microM before therapy to 5.86 +/- 1.03 microM after therapy) and increased anti-neutrophil-elastase capacity (0.78 +/- 0.38 microM before therapy to 4.16 +/- 0.95 microM after therapy). Aerosolized alpha 1-antitrypsin diffused across the respiratory epithelium and entered lung interstitial lymph (in sheep) and reached the systemic circulation (in sheep and humans). No side effects were noted.

Conclusion: Short-term aerosol administration of human plasma alpha 1-antitrypsin to patients with alpha 1-antitrypsin deficiency is safe and feasible, resulting in a return to normal of anti-neutrophil-elastase defenses in the lower respiratory tract. The aerosol approach, therefore, merits serious long-term evaluation as an alternative to other parenteral forms of administering therapeutic proteins.

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Lung / metabolism*
  • Neutrophils / enzymology*
  • Pancreatic Elastase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Permeability
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / metabolism
  • Sheep
  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin / administration & dosage*
  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin / pharmacokinetics
  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin Deficiency*


  • Aerosols
  • alpha 1-Antitrypsin
  • Pancreatic Elastase