Airway remodeling is generally quite broadly defined as any change in composition, distribution, thickness, mass or volume and/or number of structural components observed in the airway wall of patients relative to healthy individuals. However, two types of airway remodeling should be distinguished more clearly: (1) physiological airway remodeling, which encompasses structural changes that occur regularly during normal lung development and growth leading to a normal mature airway wall or as an acute and transient response to injury and/or inflammation, which ultimately results in restoration of a normal airway structures; and (2) pathological airway remodeling, which comprises those structural alterations that occur as a result of either disturbed lung development or as a response to chronic injury and/or inflammation leading to persistently altered airway wall structures and function. This review will address a few major aspects: (1) what are reliable quantitative approaches to assess airway remodeling? (2) Are there any indications supporting the notion that airway remodeling can occur as a primary event, i.e., before any inflammatory process was initiated? (3) What is known about airway remodeling being a secondary event to inflammation? And (4), what can we learn from the different animal models ranging from invertebrate to primate models in the study of airway remodeling? Future studies are required addressing particularly pheno-/endotype-specific aspects of airway remodeling using both endotype-specific animal models and "endotyped" human asthmatics. Hopefully, novel in vivo imaging techniques will be further advanced to allow monitoring development, growth and inflammation of the airways already at a very early stage in life.
Keywords: Airway pathology; Airway remodeling; Asthma.