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Study Unveils Potential Genetic Links to Lung Disease Risk

Posted Dec 14 2009 10:48am

A new study involving data from more than 20,000 individuals has uncovered several DNA sequences linked to impaired pulmonary function. The research, an analysis that combined the results of several smaller studies, provides insight into the mechanisms involved in reaching full lung capacity. The findings may ultimately lead to better understanding of lung function and diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.

“We have known for a while that genetic factors put some people at risk for lower lung function —a factor in COPD and a risk for early mortality. But, we did not know which specific genetic regions were involved,” said Stephanie London, M.D., Dr.P.H., senior investigator at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of National Institutes of Health (NIH), and a senior author on the paper. “These findings point to specific gene regions.”

Impaired lung function is a hallmark of COPD and other lung diseases. But it is also linked to mortality from a wide range of other diseases, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. So knowing some of the genes involved is a first step toward understanding the relationship between lung function and mortality, as well as developing new interventions to manage lung diseases.

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