Mutations in a gene that helps repair damaged chromosome ends may make smokers—especially female smokers—more susceptible to emphysema, according to results of a new study led by Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers.

The mutations are one of a few genetic factors directly linked to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema, since the 1960s, says Mary Armanios, MD, associate professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.