A variant of MMP12 was associated with better lung function in children with asthma.
In adults, the variant led to better lung function in adult smokers and reduced the risk of COPD in former or current smokers.
The findings, published online Dec. 16 in the New England Journal of Medicine, also shed new light on the connections between asthma and COPD.
"This suggests that there are some genes that may influence both asthma and COPD, so that for a subgroup of people there may be common determinants," said study senior author Celedon.
"There is certainly overlapping in that how you get asthma and how you get COPD is related and probably very closely related," Cirillo said. "That's exciting because it suggests that if we can decrease or increase expression of genes that are common to both, we could potentially affect both. It's nice to have one treatment."
All of which makes sense, Edelman said. "This gene is involved in the inflammatory process, and asthma is a disease of inflammation and COPD is a disease of inflammation," he noted. "The results are different and the pathways are different but you're still talking about inflammation of the lung. It's not terribly surprising that it appears to be protective in both circumstances."
The American Lung Association has more on lung disease.
SOURCES: Juan C. Celedon, M.D., Dr.P.H., associate professor, medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston; Norman Edelman, M.D., chief medical officer, American Lung Association; Jeffrey Cirillo, Ph.D., professor, mic
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