The Role of Surfactant in Respiratory Distress Syndrome

Christopher Cheng-Hwa Ma*, Sze Ma
King's College London School of Medicine, London SE1 IUL, UK

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© Ma and Ma; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the King's College London School of Medicine, London SE1 1UL, UK; Tel: (+44) 0783 8978 541; E-mail:


The key feature of respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) is the insufficient production of surfactant in the lungs of preterm infants. As a result, researchers have looked into the possibility of surfactant replacement therapy as a means of preventing and treating RDS. We sought to identify the role of surfactant in the prevention and management of RDS, comparing the various types, doses, and modes of administration, and the recent development. A PubMed search was carried out up to March 2012 using phrases: surfactant, respiratory distress syndrome, protein-containing surfactant, protein-free surfactant, natural surfactant, animal-derived surfactant, synthetic surfactant, lucinactant, surfaxin, surfactant protein-B, surfactant protein-C.

Natural, or animal-derived, surfactant is currently the surfactant of choice in comparison to protein-free synthetic surfactant. However, it is hoped that the development of protein-containing synthetic surfactant, such as lucinactant, will rival the efficacy of natural surfactants, but without the risks of their possible side effects. Administration techniques have also been developed with nasal continuous positive airway pressure (nCPAP) and selective surfactant administration now recommended; multiple surfactant doses have also reported better outcomes. An aerosolised form of surfactant is being trialled in the hope that surfactant can be administered in a non-invasive way. Overall, the advancement, concerning the structure of surfactant and its mode of administration, offers an encouraging future in the management of RDS.

Keywords: Surfactant, RDS, natural, synthetic, protein-free, protein-containing..