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East Midlands study could pave way for new lung disease treatments

A study which academics claim is the largest and most diverse of its kind could pave the way for new potential lung disease treatments. The global study, led by universities in Leicester and Nottingham, linked more than 500 new genes to lung function for the first time.

The following article is adapted from an article that appears on the BBC website.

The study analysed genome data from 580,869 participants worldwide.

Scientists said it built the best picture yet of how our genes affect our lung health.

The study, led by the University of Leicester and the University of Nottingham, was able to identify 559 new genes implicated in lung function.

Those behind it said it represented a huge boost to scientists as they sought to understand which medicines may help improve lung health, and also which medicines might make lung health worse.

'A big leap'

They said the findings could pave the way for potential new treatments to tackle conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma, and highlight existing drugs that could potentially be repurposed at speed.

Chronic respiratory disease, such as COPD, is the third leading cause of death globally.

The principal investigator on the study, Prof Martin Tobin from the University of Leicester's department of population health sciences, said: "This is a big leap in terms of the size and the ethnic diversity of the populations that we've been able to study before and it's a huge step in the number of associated genetic variants that we've discovered.

Our genetic research findings can be used to generate individual risk scores that could personalise medicine.

Professor Martin Tobin, University of Leicester

"At this stage the risk scores we developed form important tools for further research, but in the future these could help to select which drugs might be most effective for individual patients, and which drugs should be avoided."

Inclusion 'important'

The study combined genomic information from multiple research studies worldwide.

The University of Nottingham lead Prof Ian Hall said: "Inclusion of people from diverse backgrounds in genetics research is important to make sure that all groups of people benefit from the advances in prevention and treatment that such research can bring.

At present though, the majority of people in genetic studies are from white backgrounds. In the future, we urgently need more studies in different ethnic groups to provide the necessary sample sizes to really take the field forward.

Professor Ian Hall, University of Nottingham