Lung Disease

COPD risk: Clues from the tree branches

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Science  09 Feb 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6376, pp. 649-650
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6376.649-d

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is estimated to affect 250 million people worldwide. Smoking is a major risk factor, but intrinsic host factors likely also play a role. Smith et al. hypothesized that variations in central airway tree branching might affect COPD risk. They studied large multiethnic populations by chest computed tomography (CT) and found variant branching patterns in one-quarter of the study participants. Certain branch variants were associated with COPD susceptibility and with broad structural changes in the lungs. Thus, variations in central airway anatomy detected by CT scans could potentially identify individuals at risk of COPD. Whether such scans will prevent COPD and/or improve patient care will require future longitudinal studies.

Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1715564115 (2018).

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