The effect of a peptide-containing synthetic lung surfactant on gas exchange and lung mechanics in a rabbit model of surfactant depletion

Van Zyl, Johann M.
Smith, Johan
Hawtrey, Arthur
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Background: Currently, a new generation of synthetic pulmonary surfactants is being developed that may eventually replace animal-derived surfactants used in the treatment of respiratory distress syndrome. Enlightened by this, we prepared a synthetic peptide-containing surfactant (Synsurf) consisting of phospholipids and poly-l-lysine electrostatically bonded to poly-l-glutamic acid. Our objective in this study was to investigate if bronchoalveolar lavage (BAL)-induced acute lung injury and surfactant deficiency with accompanying hypoxemia and increased alveolar and physiological dead space is restored to its prelavage condition by surfactant replacement with Synsurf, a generic prepared Exosurf, and a generic Exosurf containing Ca²⁺. Methods: Twelve adult New Zealand white rabbits receiving conventional mechanical ventilation underwent repeated BAL to create acute lung injury and surfactant-deficient lung disease. Synthetic surfactants were then administered and their effects assessed at specified time points over 5 hours. The variables assessed before and after lavage and surfactant treatment included alveolar and physiological dead space, dead space/tidal volume ratio, arterial end-tidal carbon dioxide tension (PCO₂) difference (mainstream capnography), arterial blood gas analysis, calculated shunt, and oxygen ratios. Results: BAL led to acute lung injury characterized by an increasing arterial PCO₂ and a simultaneous increase of alveolar and physiological dead space/tidal volume ratio with no intergroup differences. Arterial end-tidal PCO₂ and dead space/tidal volume ratio correlated in the Synsurf, generic Exosurf and generic Exosurf containing Ca²⁺ groups. A significant and sustained improvement in systemic oxygenation occurred from time point 180 minutes onward in animals treated with Synsurf compared to the other two groups (P ˂ 0.001). A statistically significant decrease in pulmonary shunt (P ˂ 0.001) was found for the Synsurf-treated group of animals, as well as radiographic improvement in three out of four animals in that group. Conclusion: In general, surfactant-replacement therapy in the animals did not fully restore the lung to its prelavage condition. However, our data show that the formulated surfactant Synsurf improves oxygenation by lowering pulmonary shunt.
Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.
The original publication is available at
Synthetic pulmonary surfactants, Surface active agents, Respiratory distress syndrome
Van Zyl, J. M., Smith, J. & Hawtrey, A.O. 2013. The effect of a peptide-containing synthetic lung surfactant on gas exchange and lung mechanics in a rabbit model of surfactant depletion. Drug Design, Development and Therapy, 7,139-148, doi:10.2147/DDDT.S40622.