Scientists have identified five genetic variants that can keep human lungs fit.

The research, by an international consortium of 96 scientists from 63 European and Australian centres, sheds new light on the molecular basis of lung diseases.

The consortium was led by Martin Tobin from the University of Leicester and Ian Hall, a professor from the University of Nottingham.

The new findings provide hope for better treatment of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), which affects 10 percent of adults above 40 years and is the fourth most common cause of death worldwide.

Smoking is the major risk factor for COPD development. In the past, incomplete understanding of the molecular pathways affecting the lungs stymied development of new treatments.

The ground-breaking research involved a genetic study of 2.5 million sites across the human genome involving samples from 20,000 people across the world.

The scientists said: “This work is important because until now we have known very little about the genetic factors that determine an individual’s lung function.”

“By identifying the genes important in determining lung function, we can start to unravel the underlying mechanisms which control both lung development and lung damage,” they added.

These findings were published in Nature Genetics.

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