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Gene Variant said to Protect against Asthma, COPD

A variant of the gene MMP12, which plays a role in inflammation, seems to protect the lungs of children with asthma and adults who smoke, according a recent study. This new gene raises hope that improved prevention and treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will be discovered.

Researchers have found that levels of the MMP12 gene may impact the quality of life for those individuals who suffer from asthma and COPD. They also found that adult smokers with this variant of the gene have a lower risk of developing COPD, a condition often brought on by smoking.

Linked to the development of emphysema in mice exposed to smoke, the gene is thought to be important in the onset of emphysema in humans. It can also be 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, is what spurred investigators to being this study.

Dr. Juan C. Celedon, associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues studied seven different groups of people, in all 8,300 children and adults. Their findings, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, shed light on the association the variant of MMP12 has to better lung function in children with asthma, adult smokers, and the connection between asthma and COPD.

"There is certainly overlapping in that how you get asthma and how you get COPD is related and probably very closely related," said Jeffrey Cirillo, professor of microbial and molecular pathogenesis at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine in College Station."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."

By understanding more about MMP12, researchers are hopeful that they will be able to come up with new therapeutic approaches including ways to induce or oppress the protein expression in the lungs and treat COPD and asthma.  Click here to read the full story on MedicineNet.

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