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Gene change could cause susceptibility to lung disease

Researchers from an international collaboration led by NIHR Biomedical Research Centres (BRCs) have discovered why some people are more likely to develop a devastating lung disease – idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF).

As it stands, there are no cures for IPF and current treatments can only slow the progression of the disease. This means an improved understanding of what causes IPF is vital in the development of more effective treatments.

The research teams compared the DNA of 4,000 people with IPF to 20,000 people without IPF, in total investigating over 10 million changes in the DNA. They found that people with IPF were more likely to have changes in three genes that have not previously been known to be involved with the disease.

The discovery of these three genes reveals biological pathways that crucially could be potential targets for new drugs.

Professor Louise Wain, British Lung Foundation chair in respiratory research at the University of Leicester, said: “Genetic studies hold real promise in helping us find new treatments for IPF. This study was undertaken by a large international team of scientists and doctors and wouldn’t have been possible were it not for patients with IPF contributing their genetic data for research.

“The next step is to find out how these findings can enable us to find new and better treatments for IPF.”

IPF is a devastating lung disease where scar tissue builds up in the lungs. This scarring makes it difficult to breathe and half of all patients die within three years of diagnosis.

About 6,000 people are diagnosed every year in the UK, though the NIHR says that this number appears to be rising.