The discovery of biological subphenotypes in ARDS: a novel approach to targeted medicine?

Karin Wildi, Samantha Livingstone, Chiara Palmieri, Gianluigi LiBassi, Jacky Suen, John Fraser
Journal of Intensive Care 2021 January 21, 9 (1): 14
The acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is a severe lung disorder with a high morbidity and mortality which affects all age groups. Despite active research with intense, ongoing attempts in developing pharmacological agents to treat ARDS, its mortality rate remains unaltered high and treatment is still only supportive. Over the years, there have been many attempts to identify meaningful subgroups likely to react differently to treatment among the heterogenous ARDS population, most of them unsuccessful. Only recently, analysis of large ARDS cohorts from randomized controlled trials have identified the presence of distinct biological subphenotypes among ARDS patients: a hypoinflammatory (or uninflamed; named P1) and a hyperinflammatory (or reactive; named P2) subphenotype have been proposed and corroborated with existing retrospective data. The hyperinflammatory subphenotyope was clearly associated with shock state, metabolic acidosis, and worse clinical outcomes. Core features of the respective subphenotypes were identified consistently in all assessed cohorts, independently of the studied population, the geographical location, the study design, or the analysis method. Additionally and clinically even more relevant treatment efficacies, as assessed retrospectively, appeared to be highly dependent on the respective subphenotype. This discovery launches a promising new approach to targeted medicine in ARDS. Even though it is now widely accepted that each ARDS subphenotype has distinct functional, biological, and mechanistic differences, there are crucial gaps in our knowledge, hindering the translation to bedside application. First of all, the underlying driving biological factors are still largely unknown, and secondly, there is currently no option for fast and easy identification of ARDS subphenotypes. This narrative review aims to summarize the evidence in biological subphenotyping in ARDS and tries to point out the current issues that will need addressing before translation of biological subohenotypes into clinical practice will be possible.

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