COPACETIC is an international study of the origin and course of COPD

Smoking is the chief cause of the occurrence of the lung disease COPD. Not everyone that smokes his or her entire life will contract COPD. Stories about the legendary grandpas that smoked until their hundredth birthday but ‘it never bothered them’ are frequent. Although these stories should be taken with a large grain of salt, there is a grain of truth in them. It has been proven that not every smoker contracts COPD. In fact, ‘only’ one out of four smokers contracts COPD.

Why do these particular smokers contract COPD and the others do not? Are they just unlucky, or is something else behind this? The COPACETIC study was established to answer these questions. The theory is that one smoker does and the other does not contract COPD because of genetic predisposition. It is possible that differences in genetic characteristics determine why the lungs of one smoker are damaged and those of another are not damaged by cigarette smoke.

If this is indeed true, it must somehow be possible to identify such a susceptibility to lung damage in the DNA, the genetic material of humans (see button: genes). This is what the COPACETIC study will research. For this purpose, genetic material from thousands of people in various European countries has been collected. From smokers with COPD and smokers without COPD. This genetic material is being carefully studied. It will be determined whether there are ‘errors’ in the genetic material of smokers with COPD that smokers without COPD do not have.

If such heritable DNA errors are identified, this is an indication that genetic differences indeed play a role in the susceptibility of a smoker to COPD.  This offers the possibility of developing a test that can indicate which people are at high risk of contracting COPD and which at much lower risk.

That is not all. If there are clearly identifiable differences between the genetic material of smokers with and without COPD, this is also relevant to the research into the exact way in which COPD occurs. After all, these differences indicate which genes are possibly involved in the occurrence of COPD. Moreover, if it is known which genes are involved in the occurrence of COPD, it can be determined what processes take place in the lungs in the occurrence of COPD.

This clearer picture can then point us in the right direction regarding the development of treatment that can increase the resistance of the lungs such that the chance of COPD occurring becomes smaller. Or therapy that makes it possible to halt COPD that has already occurred, so that the respiratory complaints do not continue to worsen.