Severe asthma in horses is characterized by structural changes that thicken the lower airway wall, a change that is only partially reversible by current treatments. Increased vascularization contributes to the thickening of the bronchial wall in humans with asthma and is considered a potential new therapeutic target.
To determine the presence of angiogenesis in the bronchi of severely asthmatic horses, and if present, to evaluate its reversibility by treatment with corticosteroids.
Study 1: Bronchial samples from asthmatic horses in exacerbation (7), in remission (7), and aged-matched healthy horses. Study 2: Endobronchial biopsy samples from asthmatic horses in exacerbation (6) and healthy horses (6) before and after treatment with dexamethasone.
Blinded, randomized controlled study. Immunohistochemistry was performed using collagen IV as a marker for vascular basement membranes. Number of vessels, vascular area, and mean vessel size in the bronchial lamina propria were measured by histomorphometry. Reversibility of vascular changes in Study 2 was assessed after 2 weeks of treatment with dexamethasone.
The number of vessels and vascular area were increased in the airway walls of asthmatic horses in exacerbation (P = .01 and P = .02, respectively) and in remission (P = .02 and P = .04, respectively) when compared to controls. In Study 2, the differences observed between groups disappeared after 2 weeks of treatment with corticosteroids because of the increased number of vessels in healthy horses.
Angiogenesis contributes to thickening of the airway wall in asthmatic horses and was not reversed by a 2-week treatment with corticosteroids.

© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine.