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WAO Medical Book Review

Posted: August 2009

Airway Smooth Muscle in Asthma and COPD: Biology and Pharmacology
Prof. Kian Fan Chung (Editor)
2008 Wiley
ISBN: 978-0-470-06066-7
List Price: $170 US
Available from Wiley Press

Dr. Janet Rimmer MD, FRACP
St, Vincent's Clinic
Darlinghurst, Sydney, Australia

A few decades ago it was anticipated airway smooth muscle abnormalities would provide the key to the cause of asthma. Some 30 years later after the subsequent focus on airway inflammation and remodelling it is opportune to try and integrate these areas and this is admirably achieved in this book. There are 34 contributers to this book which covers 14 sections all focusing on the role of smooth muscle in the airway diseases asthma and COPD. It tries to marry the different disciplines that have been involved in studied airways: smooth muscle biophysics and airway biology and to explore the links between these two.

This book is designed to provide a very detailed, comprehensive and up-to-date overview of muscle structure and function in asthma and COPD. It concentrates more on the science than the clinical aspects of these diseases.

This book is invaluable to the researcher in asthma and COPD. It may also be useful to some clinicians who have a special interest in these areas. It would be an ideal addition to libraries in institutions that research these fields.

The scope of the book is narrow in that it focuses entirely on smooth muscle function in two important diseases: asthma and COPD. Its strength is that it provides a collation of detailed and comprehensive information on this topic in one volume. Initially it focuses on the general properties of smooth muscle including hyperresponsiveness, plasticity, proliferation; interaction with local environmental factors such as extracellular matrix, mast cells and the synthetic functions of smooth muscle cells. There are specific chapters on airway smooth muscle in asthma, COPD and animal models. The final chapters focus on downstream drug effects on airway smooth muscle.

This is a very useful reference book for workers in the field and also an ideal introduction to the field for researchers. It is a detailed, comprehensive book on an increasingly complex topic. The book would have been enhanced by the inclusion of a chapter attempting to integrate the data to provide an overall picture and also highlighting the seminal differences between asthma and COPD. It is hoped that future editions will continue in this rapidly moving field.