Friday, December 4, 2009

Smoking During Pregnancy Changes Child’s DNA

Women who smoke during pregnancy, increase the risk of asthma, heart conditions and respiratory diseases in their babies. A new study could now help to explain why this happens. Maternal smoking imposes health risks not only on the mother but also on her baby, and the findings show this may affect both the child’s health later in life and the health of succeeding generations, according to the authors of study.

Researchers at the University of South California discovered that smoking during pregnancy could transform the DNA of unborn baby. The study found that maternal smoking is linked to the changes in epigenetic mechanism for DNA methylation. Epigenetic studies how chemical compounds are added to DNA and how they switch genes on and off. This causes the differences in gene expression without changing the genetic information itself. Epigenetic has played a crucial role in cancer research, but little is known how epigenetic changes occur under the influence of environmental factors.

Researches used data from USC Children’s Health Study as well as the survey on maternal smoking during pregnancy. The findings have been published in September issue of American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

This study showed for the first time that the environment affects fetal growth. Such environmental exposures as tobacco smoke can trigger genetic changes.

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