Mutation of one gene is all it takes to get cystic fibrosis (CF), but disease severity depends on many other genes and proteins.

For the first time, researchers at the UNC School of Medicine have identified genetic pathways – or clusters of genes – that play major roles in why one person with CF might never experience the worse kinds of symptoms while another person will battle severe airway infection for a lifetime.

The finding, published in the American Journal of Human Genetics, opens avenues of research toward new personalized or precision treatments to lessen pulmonary symptoms and increase life expectancy for people with cystic fibrosis.