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Gene Variant Seems to Guard Against Asthma, COPD
Date:12/16/2009

Study suggests it plays a role in reducing inflammation in the lungs

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 16 (HealthDay News) -- A gene variant that plays a role in inflammation seems to protect the lungs of children with asthma as well as adults who smoke.

Researchers also found that adult smokers with this variant of the MMP12 gene had a lower risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a progressive condition often brought on by smoking.

"The gene seems to be protective of the lungs in both asthma and COPD," said Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association.

Any new gene identified raises the hope that it will provide ways to prevent or treat the disease to which it is allied and this is no exception.

"Levels of the MMP12 gene may impact the quality of life for those individuals with asthma and COPD, and may allow us to come up with potential therapeutic approaches," added Jeffrey Cirillo, professor of microbial and molecular pathogenesis at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in College Station. "By understanding more about this specific gene we can find ways to induce or oppress that protein expression in the lungs."

"The real question is not why people who smoke get COPD. We kind of know the answer to that. The question is why do people who don't smoke get COPD," added Edelman. "If we understood that, we could find ways to reverse it and protect people."

The MMP12 gene has been implicated in the development of emphysema in mice that are exposed to smoke, suggesting that the gene may also be important in the onset of emphysema in humans. The gene is also linked with other genes involved in asthma.

This information, combined with the fact that factors that can cause the onset of asthma in children are also involved with how well your lungs function in adulthood spurred investigators to undertake this study.

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