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Journal of Allergy
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 768982, 8 pages
Review Article

A Brief History of Airway Smooth Muscle’s Role in Airway Hyperresponsiveness

1James Hogg Research Center, St. Paul’s Hospital Vancouver, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6Z 1Y6
2Respiratory Division, Department of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, V5Z 1Mg, Canada

Received 10 August 2012; Accepted 21 September 2012

Academic Editor: Michael M. Grunstein

Copyright © 2012 C. D. Pascoe et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


A link between airway smooth muscle (ASM) and airway hyperresponsiveness (AHR) in asthma was first postulated in the midnineteenth century, and the suspected link has garnered ever increasing interest over the years. AHR is characterized by excessive narrowing of airways in response to nonspecific stimuli, and it is the ASM that drives this narrowing. The stimuli that can be used to demonstrate AHR vary widely, as do the potential mechanisms by which phenotypic changes in ASM or nonmuscle factors can contribute to AHR. In this paper, we review the history of research on airway smooth muscle’s role in airway hyperresponsiveness. This research has ranged from analyzing the quantity of ASM in the airways to testing for alterations in the plastic behavior of smooth muscle, which distinguishes it from skeletal and cardiac muscles. This long history of research and the continued interest in this topic mean that the precise role of ASM in airway responsiveness remains elusive, which makes it a pertinent topic for this collection of articles.