Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD) is characterized by low levels of circulating alpha-1 antitrypsin and an increased risk for emphysema, liver disease, and panniculitis. The reduced levels of alpha-1 antitrypsin in AATD predispose the lung to unopposed proteolytic activity, predominantly from neutrophil-derived proteases, chiefly neutrophil elastase. This leads to emphysema. The mechanisms subtending the liver disease are less well understood, but are probably due to a "gain-of function" inflammatory process in the liver, stoked by intracellular retention of aberrantly folded alpha-1 antitrypsin. The panniculitis associated with AATD is most likely due to unopposed proteolytic activity in the skin. Although AATD has been traditionally viewed as a condition arising from a protease-antiprotease imbalance in the lung, it is increasingly recognized that AATD is an inflammatory disorder, both in the lung and in the extrapulmonary manifestations associated with the condition. This inflammation is predominantly neutrophil driven, and there are several alpha-1 antitrypsin-related mechanisms involved in potentiating this neutrophilic response. The rationale for AAT augmentation therapy in AATD is classically based on restoring the antiprotease balance in the lung, but its beneficial effects may also be exerted systemically, further exposing the pathogenesis of AATD-related disease and indicating a potential usage for alpha-1 antitrypsin in other inflammatory conditions.
Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland ->