Could some smokers be at even higher risk of lung disease?

Posted by pt91 at Jul 03, 2012 12:05 AM |
University of Leicester researchers analyse genetic clues that predict lung disease


Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 3 July 2012

Local patient case study available on request

Academic contact: Professor Martin Tobin (0)116 229 7270; Email:

Genetics could put some smokers at an even higher risk of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) according to a team of scientists at this year’s Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition which opens today (3 July). The researchers are studying the genetic variations which predict lung health.

According to a team from the University of Leicester, lead by GENIE, the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning in Genetics, a person's chances of developing COPD as they grow older is affected by whether they smoke cigarettes, but genetic variation also plays a role. Understanding the genetic variation that predicts lung disease gives scientists clues about the causes of lung disease and about how to treat it.

Lead exhibitor Professor Martin Tobin, along with an international consortium of 175 scientists, has been able to identify twenty-six common genetic variants definitely linked with lung function. The researchers say the new pathways discovered could lead to better drugs and treatments for COPD - a progressive disease, affecting around 1 in 10 adults above the age of 40, which makes it hard for people to breathe and is the fourth most common cause of death worldwide.

Commenting on the research his team will be presenting Professor Martin Tobin said:

“The risks to lung health posed by smoking are now well accepted but what if you knew your personal genetic make-up could put you at an even higher risk? Would this make you quit or stop you from starting in the first place? At this point it is too early to say whether this research could be used to create a screening test to predict the development of COPD but it does offer us a starting point for understanding the factors which underlie inherited variability in lung function.   Avoiding taking up smoking and stopping smoking remain the best ways to prevent COPD.”

To identify the genetic variations that affect lung health the scientists behind the exhibit compared millions of differences in the DNA of almost 50,000 people and checked how healthy their lungs were. The DNA in our cells is made up of three billion pairs of just four types of chemical bases: known as A, C, G and T. Genetic variation means that, where one person might have an A at a certain place in the sequence, another person might have a G.

The researchers hope to use the knowledge gained from this study to learn more about the function of genes which contribute to the risk of developing lung diseases such as COPD and to try and develop strategies to use genetic information to improve the clinical care provided to individual patients

At the exhibition, visitors will be able to see how lung health is measured and learn about genetic variation between people. They will also be able to try detecting the genetic variations which predict lung health.

The exhibition opens to the public on Tuesday 3 July 2012.

To discuss media arrangements for the exhibition, including the suitability of exhibits for broadcast media in terms of visuals, sound and spokespeople or to arrange interviews please contact:

Nicola Kane

Press and Public Relations

The Royal Society, London

Tel: 020 7451 2508


A local case study is available for this story- please contact Professor Martin Tobin on:

Martin Tobin,

Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Public Health, & MRC Senior Clinical Fellow, Genetic Epidemiology Group, Departments of Health Sciences & Genetics

University of Leicester

Tel: +44 (0)116 229 7270



Notes for editors:

1.       Please contact the Royal Society press office to register your interest in attending the press conference on 29 June and the press preview on 2 July.

2.       A patient able to talk about living with COPD is available for press interview on request.

3.       Images available on request.

4.       General info:  The Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition showcases cutting edge research in science and engineering from across the UK. It is held annually at the Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science. Follow the Summer Science Exhibition on Twitter at using the hashtag #SSE2012.

5.       Exhibition opening times:  The Exhibition is located in the Royal Society, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5 AG and takes place from Tuesday 3 July to Sunday 8 July 2012. Open Tuesday 3 July 10am – 9pm, Wednesday 4 July – Thursday 5 July 10am – 5pm, Friday 6 July 10am – 9pm, Saturday 7 July 10am – 9pm, Sunday 8 July 10am – 6pm.  The event is FREE and open to the public.  Further information can be found at: 

6.       The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering, and medicine. The Society’s fundamental purpose, as it has been since its foundation in 1660, is to recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.

The Society’s strategic priorities emphasise its commitment to the highest quality science, to curiosity-driven research, and to the development and use of science for the benefit of society. These priorities are:

1.        Promoting science and its benefits

2.       Recognising excellence in science

3.        Supporting outstanding science

4.       Providing scientific advice for policy

5.        Fostering international and global cooperation

6.       Education and public engagement

For further information on the Royal Society please visit Follow the Royal Society on Twitter at or on Facebook at

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