Short-course rapamycin treatment preserves airway epithelium and protects against bronchiolitis obliterans

Jacob R. Gillen, Yunge Zhao, David A. Harris, Damien J. Lapar, Irving L. Kron, Christine L. Lau

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Damage to airway epithelium is closely related to the development of bronchiolitis obliterans (BO) in pulmonary transplantation. Rapamycin protects against BO development in a murine model, but its use in patients undergoing lung transplantation is limited by its side effects. We hypothesized that short-course rapamycin dosing could be used to prevent airway epithelium loss and protect against BO development in a murine model. Methods: A total alloantigenic mismatch, murine, heterotopic tracheal transplant model of BO was used. Animals were treated with either rapamycin or dimethyl sulfoxide (controls) according to one of three treatment regimens: (1) days 1 through 14 after transplantation, (2) days 3 through 7 after transplantation, or (3) days 14 through 28 after transplantation. Epithelial loss was assessed by use of hematoxylin and eosin stains 14 and 28 days after transplantation. Tracheal luminal obliteration was assessed at 28 days. Results: Early rapamycin treatment was protective against epithelial loss 14 days after transplantation in comparison with control animals (p < 0.001). Rapamycin treatment from days 1 to 14 was more effective at epithelial preservation (p = 0.002) and reducing luminal obliteration (p < 0.001) at 28 days than was rapamycin treatment from days 3 to 7. Late rapamycin treatment (days 14 to 28) allowed for recovery of the previously denuded epithelium at 28 days (92.5% epithelial loss to 35.6%) and a reduction in BO (p < 0.001). Conclusions: Short-course rapamycin treatment protects against airway epithelium loss and subsequent development of BO in a murine model. Because of its immunosuppressive and antifibrotic effects, rapamycin may prove to be the ideal medication to prevent chronic rejection and BO in patients undergoing lung transplantation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)464-472
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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