Retinoic acid treatment abrogates elastase-induced pulmonary emphysema in rats

Nat Med. 1997 Jun;3(6):675-7. doi: 10.1038/nm0697-675.


Pulmonary emphysema is a common disease in which destruction of the lung's gas-exchange structures (alveoli) leads to inadequate oxygenation, disability and frequently death; lung transplantation provides its only remediation. Because treatment of normal rats with all-trans-retinoic acid increases the number of alveoli, we tested whether a similar effect would occur in rats with emphysema. Elastase was instilled into rat lungs, producing changes characteristic of human and experimental emphysema: increased lung volume reflecting a loss of lung elastic recoil, larger but fewer alveoli and diminished volume-corrected alveolar surface area due to destruction of alveolar walls. Treatment with all-trans-retinoic acid reversed these changes providing nonsurgical remediation of emphysema and suggesting the possibility of a similar effect in humans.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Male
  • Pancreatic Elastase
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / drug effects*
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / growth & development
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / pathology
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / chemically induced
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / drug therapy*
  • Pulmonary Emphysema / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Tretinoin / therapeutic use*


  • Tretinoin
  • Pancreatic Elastase