There is increasing evidence that elastase may mediate pulmonary damage in emphysema and also that the release of intracellular elastase by cigarette smoke is necessarily associated with cell death. We report consistent and significant variation in response of lymphocytes from different individuals to the cytotoxic effect of cigarette smoke condensate in vitro. This variation which occurred at levels of cigarette smoke likely to be encountered in vivo and which was independent of the age, sex, or smoking habits of the subjects, may be relevant in determining the risk of developing emphysema amongst smokers.
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