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.