A meta-analysis from an international team of researchers suggests genetic differences in four genes may account for variable FEV1 response to salbutamol.
The study, presented at the American Society of Human Genetics 2013 meeting in Boston this week, examined the DNA of 5,789 white and more than 700 African-American patients with moderate to severe COPD. Most had a smoking history of more than 10 pack-years.
All patients' DNA was analysed for the presence of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and spirometry used to measure airflow to the lungs.
To assess each patient's response to salbutamol, the absolute change in FEV1, change as a percentage of predicted FEV1 and change as a percentage of baseline FEV1 were measured.
Researchers linked SNPs in the gene HS6ST3 to differences in baseline FEV1 measures, while patients with SNPs in XKR4 were more likely to see differences in baseline and predicted FEV1 response.
Similarly, SNPs in CUBN were associated with differences in absolute and predicted FEV1 response, while in African-American patients, SNPs in CDH13 were linked to absolute FEV1 measures.
Study author Megan Hardin, of Harvard Medical School, Boston, said: 'Identifying SNPs associated with bronchodilator responsiveness may reveal genetic pathways associated with the pathogenesis of COPD and may identify novel treatment methods.'