In this study, surgical specimens from 43 subjects undergoing lung resection due to lung cancer (9 non-smokers, 18 smokers without COPD and 16 smokers with moderate COPD) and 16 patients undergoing double lung transplantation for very severe COPD were examined. CD57+ cells, neutrophils, macrophages and mast cells infiltrating bronchioles (epithelium, smooth muscle and connective tissue) and parenchymal interstitium were localized and quantified by immunohistochemical analysis.
Compared to the other groups, the small airways of very severe COPD patients showed a significantly higher density of CD57+ cells, mainly infiltrated in the connective tissue (p=0.001), and a significantly higher density of neutrophils located characteristically in the epithelium (p=0.037). Also, the density of neutrophils was significantly higher in parenchyma of very severe COPD patients compared with the rest of the groups (p=0.001). Finally, there were significant correlations between the bronchiolar density of CD57+ cells and the FEV1 values (R=-0.43, p=0.022), as well as between the parenchymal density of neutrophils and macroscopic emphysema degree (R=0.43, p=0.048) in COPD groups.
These results show that CD57+ cells may be involved in COPD pathogenesis, especially in the most severe stages of the disease.