New Pharmacological Tools to Target Leukocyte Trafficking in Lung Disease

Kylie B R Belchamber, Michael J Hughes, Daniella A Spittle, Eloise M Walker, Elizabeth Sapey

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Infection and inflammation of the lung results in the recruitment of non-resident immune cells, including neutrophils, eosinophils and monocytes. This swift response should ensure clearance of the threat and resolution of stimuli which drive inflammation. However, once the threat is subdued this influx of immune cells should be followed by clearance of recruited cells through apoptosis and subsequent efferocytosis, expectoration or retrograde migration back into the circulation. This cycle of cell recruitment, containment of threat and then clearance of immune cells and repair is held in exquisite balance to limit host damage. Advanced age is often associated with detrimental changes to the balance described above. Cellular functions are altered including a reduced ability to traffic accurately towards inflammation, a reduced ability to clear pathogens and sustained inflammation. These changes, seen with age, are heightened in lung disease, and most chronic and acute lung diseases are associated with an exaggerated influx of immune cells, such as neutrophils, to the airways as well as considerable inflammation. Indeed, across many lung diseases, pathogenesis and progression has been associated with the sustained presence of trafficking cells, with examples including chronic diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis and acute infections such as Pneumonia and Pneumonitis. In these instances, there is evidence that dysfunctional and sustained recruitment of cells to the airways not only increases host damage but impairs the hosts ability to effectively respond to microbial invasion. Targeting leukocyte migration in these instances, to normalise cellular responses, has therapeutic promise. In this review we discuss the current evidence to support the trafficking cell as an immunotherapeutic target in lung disease, and which potential mechanisms or pathways have shown promise in early drug trials, with a focus on the neutrophil, as the quintessential trafficking immune cell.

Original languageEnglish
Article number704173
JournalFrontiers in immunology
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021 Belchamber, Hughes, Spittle, Walker and Sapey.


  • ageing
  • chemotaxis
  • monocyte
  • neutrophil (PMN)
  • proteinase
  • respiratory


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