The official blog of the Lung Institute.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 12 million U.S. adults have a COPD diagnosis. In addition, it is estimated that another 12 million U.S. adults have undiagnosed COPD. Currently, smoking is the leading cause of COPD, but exposure to air pollutants and genetic factors play a role as well. Doctors and researchers continue to study COPD in hopes of learning more about the condition, what causes it and how to better address it. Recent research has identified new genetic risk markers for COPD. Here’s the breakdown of what you need to know.
New Genetic Risk Markers for COPD
The study’s lead author and physician-researcher, said that this new research is “the first step in a longer process in which we hope to better understand the genetic basis for COPD, or what may be several different diseases that present as COPD.”
Even though the main cause of COPD is smoking, it is thought that people’s genes may also play an important role in the development of the disease. In fact, the study revealed that stopping smoking, while very important to general health, may not be enough to completely prevent COPD. Genetic factors could play a larger role than once thought.
How Was the Study about New Genetic Risk Markers for COPD Performed?
The research team performed a “genetic association study by searching for possible risk genes linked to the disease and included genetic variants of 15,256 COPD patients and 47,936 controls. The top findings were investigated further in a second cohort (9,498 COPD patients and 9,748 controls).”
What Did the Team Find in Their Research?
They found 13 new genetic risk variants for COPD. Nine of the variants have well-known roles in lung function. However, four of the variants haven’t been linked to any type of lung function trait until now.
In fact, the results showed that people who carried two of the risk gene variants previously associated with pulmonary fibrosis had an increased risk of developing COPD and a decreased risk of developing pulmonary fibrosis. Simply put, the researchers say that having a vulnerability to COPD may protect against pulmonary fibrosis. The research team also found a genetic link between COPD and asthma.
With these findings about new genetic risk markers for COPD, doctors and researchers may now be able to explore and discover new biological pathways, so they can improve treatments for people with COPD, pulmonary fibrosis and other chronic lung diseases.
What Can You Do?
Understanding your condition will help you stay proactive in your healthcare. Raising awareness about COPD and other chronic lung diseases is also important. Consider asking your doctor about new studies or research about your condition. Your doctor may have helpful information to share. You and your doctor will work together to develop the best COPD treatment plan for you. Remember to see your doctor regularly for check-ups and to discuss any questions, concerns or changes in symptoms.
Keep checking-in with our blog to read articles on a variety of topics to help people breathe easier. We’re happy to answer any questions you have about stem cell treatment options for people with chronic lung diseases. Feel free to contact us at (800) 729-3065.