1 » Current Science

Not every person who smoked will develop COPD. Not every person with COPD has smoked. Why?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Many studies have shown that for most people with COPD, cigarette smoking has been a major contributor to their disease. However, many smokers do not develop COPD, and some people with COPD have not smoked at all. A small group of people develop severe COPD at an early age. Some of these individuals have inherited a deficiency of a protein in their blood, called alpha-1 antitrypsin. Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is a proven inherited risk factor for COPD, but only a small percentage of all COPD patients have this protein deficiency.

Past research has shown that the level of lung function is partially due to a genetic component and that relatives of COPD patients have higher rates of airflow obstruction than relatives of healthy subjects. This shows that there are likely other important inherited risk factors for COPD, but they have not been identified.

» Our research program is focused on identifying new inherited risk factors for COPD.

For more information on the genetics of COPD: