DNA methylation is an important process of gene expression and is now associated with COPD. COPD is associated with lung inflammation and systemic, or blood, inflammation. Researchers believe this genetic process can help explain how COPD develops.
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The study was led by Weiliang Qiu, Ph.D., from the Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Researched examined genes collected from two different family observational studies. The first family study involved 1,085 participants and the second study involved 369 participants. Researchers believed that the DNA methylation process may be altered by cigarette smoke exposure.
Researchers discovered 330 genes that were associated with COPD severity. Among these genes, several were associated with inflammation, stress, wound healing, outside stimuli and the immune system.
In addition to identifying potential genes related to COPD inflammation, researchers discovered that a decrease in DNA methylation levels, which regulate gene expression, was linked to COPD. This genetic process was associated with certain signs of lower lung function.
This research is important for the future of COPD. Knowing that smoking causes COPD may be more important to an individual and something they control, researchers need to understand the genetics of COPD. Understanding how COPD develops is an important step in developing treatments of the disease. Future studies can identify and target certain genes linked to COPD to create more effective COPD treatments.
This study was funded by grants from the United States National Institutes of Health. One of the cohorts was funded by GlaxoSmithKline. No author conflicts were reported.
This study was published in the February edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.