Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a major cause of chronic morbidity and mortality worldwide with smoking being the most important risk factor of the disease. However, lung function and COPD are known to also have a genetic component and a deeper knowledge of the genetic architecture of the disease could lead to further understanding of predisposition to COPD and also to development of new therapeutic interventions. Genetic linkage studies and candidate gene association studies have not provided evidence to convincingly identify the genes underlying lung function or COPD. However, recent large genome-wide association studies (GWAS) including tens of thousands of individuals have identified 26 variants at different loci in the human genome that show robust association with quantitative lung function measures in the general population. A growing number of these variants are being shown to be associated with COPD. Following the identification of these new lung function loci, the challenge now lies in refining the signals to identify the causative variants underlying the association signals and relating these signals to the molecular pathways that underlie lung function.
© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.