Research on chronic lung diseases has primarily focused on studying conditions, such as emphysema or lung fibrosis, in isolation. In a new study, Yale scientists identified a common genetic network for two chronic lung diseases that could inform both future research and drug development.

The two lung conditions — COPD and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) — share risk factors such as smoking, but differ in their effect on the lung. COPD is characterized by insufficient repair resulting in destruction of the lung tissue, while IPF is characterized by too much repair leading to excessive scarring of the lung. Both diseases cause significant morbidity and mortality rates.

“We were able to identify a relatively large number of genes that behaved similarly in both diseases,” said author Dr Naftali Kaminski, chief of the Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Sleep Medicine section at Yale. “This finding may suggest that there are potential core mechanisms shared by IPF and emphysema, allowing for the development of interventions to target both diseases.”