Genetic risk factors for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease


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Abstract

Cigarette smoking is clearly the major risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, only a minority of cigarette smokers develops chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, indicating that other factors are involved. Family and twin studies suggest that at least some of those factors are genetic. This article reviews the genes investigated as potential risk factors for this disease, focusing on the recent literature. The only established genetic risk factor for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is homozygosity for the Z allele of the α1-antitrypsin gene. There is increasing evidence that heterozygotes for the Z allele may also be at increased risk. Variants in genes involved in xenobiotic metabolism, antioxidation, and the inflammatory response have also been associated with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Thus, the genetic basis for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease has begun to be elucidated, and it is likely that several genes will be implicated in the pathogenesis of this disease.

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