Researchers in the US have found that genes contribute to the risk of chronic lung disease, along with smoking. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the name given to chronic bronchitis and emphysema - is very disabling, because it leads to increasing shortness of breath. It's linked with gradual destruction of lung tissue and smoking is a major cause of the problem.
However, not all smokers go on to develop COPD. Researchers at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine have been investigating the genetic basis of COPD. They have looked at genes that code for so-called pulmonary surfactant proteins (SPs), which play a key role in lung function. In a group of people from Mexico, certain variants of two of the SP genes occurred more often in those with COPD.
Smoking, and being male, were also found to be risk factors. Further study of CP genes may well shed light on how COPD develops, and also help identify those most at risk (for whom smoking would be especially dangerous).