Alpha-1-antitrypsin (A1AT) deficiency is a genetic disorder characterized by low serum levels of A1AT and a high risk for the development of emphysema. A1AT is the principal inhibitor of neutrophil elastase, such that a deficiency of AIAT results in insufficient anti-elastase protection in the lower respiratory tract, thus allowing neutrophil elastase to destroy alveolar structures. The goal of A1AT augmentation therapy in A1AT deficiency is to raise lung A1AT levels and anti-neutrophil elastase capacity to levels that will provide adequate protection against neutrophil elastase, thereby preventing the lung from further elastase-mediated degradation. Studies with intravenous administration of human A1AT (60 mg/kg at weekly intervals) demonstrate that serum A1AT levels increased from an average 33 ± 8 mg/dl pre-infusion to a steady-state trough level of 117 ± 4 mg/dl, well above the projected threshold protective serum level of A1AT. The infused A1AT diffused into the lung and significantly augmented the epithelial lining fluid A1AT levels, rising from an average 0.44 ± 0.16 μM (pre-infusion) to 2.62 ± 1.29 μM at the nadir level just prior to the next infusion. Of critical importance is the fact that the A1AT that diffused into the lung was active as an inhibitor or neutrophil elastase, resulting in significant augmentation of epithelial lining fluid anti-neutrophil elastase capacity and normalization of the lung anti-elastase protection. In the over 800 weekly infusions administered, no significant adverse reactions have occurred. These findings demonstrate that long-term augmentation therapy with weekly infusions of A1AT is a rational, safe, and biochemically effective therapy for A1AT deficiency.
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