As the lung develops, epithelial-mesenchymal crosstalk is essential for the developmental processes that drive cell proliferation, differentiation, and extracellular matrix (ECM) production within the lung epithelial-mesenchymal trophic unit (EMTU). In asthma, a number of the lung EMTU developmental signals have been associated with airway inflammation and remodeling, which has led to the hypothesis that aberrant activation of the asthmatic EMTU may lead to disease pathogenesis. Monoculture studies have aided in the understanding of the altered phenotype of airway epithelial and mesenchymal cells and their contribution to the pathogenesis of asthma. However, 3-dimensional (3D) co-culture models are needed to enable the study of epithelial-mesenchymal crosstalk in the setting of the in vivo environment. In this review, we summarize studies using 3D co-culture models to assess how defective epithelial-mesenchymal communication contributes to chronic airway inflammation and remodeling within the asthmatic EMTU.

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PubMed