Ultrastructural investigation of epithelial damage in asthmatic and non-asthmatic nasal polyps

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Nasal polyposis is a poorly understood chronic inflammatory disease often associated with asthma. As nasal polyps and asthma both are associated with massive eosinophil infiltration, they may share a common pathophysiological mechanism. Many genetic and autoimmune diseases may result from altered expression or function of cell adhesion molecules such as desmosomes. A transmission electron microscopical study was carried out on tissue from 15 patients suffering from nasal polyps, to investigate if there are changes in desmosomes in nasal polyps from asthmatic and/or allergic patients versus non-asthmatic versus non-allergic patients. In allergic patients the damage to columnar cells was more extensive than in non-allergic patients. Massive infiltration of eosinophils was observed in epithelium and connective tissue in all groups. No significant difference in thickness of the basal lamina was found between any of the groups. All patients had dilated capillaries in the connective tissue. The intercellular space between the epithelial cells was smallest in the asthmatic non-allergic group. The relative length of columnar cell or basal cell desmosomes was reduced in patients with asthma or allergy, compared to non-allergic, non-asthmatic patients. Hence, there appears to be a weakness in the desmosomes in asthmatics and allergics. Epithelial shedding may play an important role in the pathophysiological process of a multifactorial disease such as asthma.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2018-28
Number of pages11
JournalRespiratory Medicine
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006


  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Asthma
  • Basement Membrane
  • Connective Tissue
  • Desmosomes
  • Eosinophils
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasal Polyps


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