Grandchildren could develop asthma from their grandmother’s smoking
6th March 2013
cigaretteThere are umpteen reasons to quit smoking for good, and it seems that on a daily basis there is yet another story to hit the headlines that highlights more evidence of the massive damage that tobacco does to a person’s health and wellbeing. However, the researchers behind a study published in the March edition of Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology has pushed the boundaries a little further in this respect with claims regarding smoking and genetic inheritance. Two Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute (LA BioMed), John S. Torday, Ph.D, and Virender K. Rehan, M.D, believe that having a grandmother who smoked can greatly increase your chance of developing the lung respiratory condition asthma – even if your mother was a non-smoker. They state that the chemicals and environmental factors which impact our body in the present day could have after-effects for family members in future generations due to the nicotine leaving a ‘mark’ on the genome (our complete set of DNA), making future generations more likely to develop conditions such as asthma or COPD. Referencing studies conducted by Dr. Rehan, the researchers explained in their editorial that pregnant rats administered nicotine went on to breed asthmatic pups, who then also produced asthmatic pups – even though there was no exposure to nicotine in the third generation. In addition, the researchers also cited the Children's Health Study from Southern California, which demonstrated that grandmaternal smoking when pregnant can greatly increase the asthma risk for grandchildren, regardless of whether the mother had been a smoker. The researchers concluded that asthma seen in the second generation was ‘epigenetic modification’ (an environmental factor resulting in a genetic alteration). It was determined that both the lung cells and sex cells were being impacted by nicotine in ways that caused the lungs that developed from those cells to then develop abnormally – resulting in asthma. This latest study is not the first one to connect smoking asthma, however could be deemed one of the more controversial. Previous studies have long established a link between a mother smoking at her children having a higher risk of developing asthma. Dr. Erika von Mutius published a study in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology over ten years ago where he said: “exposure to tobacco smoke in utero significantly increases asthma risk.” Dr. Torday commented: “These studies break new ground in validating and further explaining the mechanisms involved in the transmission of epigenetic human diseases. The transmission of the asthma to the second generation and its prevention by a specifically-targeted molecular intervention are the first unequivocal demonstrations of multi-generational transmission of an epigenetically-mediated effect on the offspring.” Dr. Rehan further added: “Asthma is the most common chronic disease of childhood, resulting in a significant impact on the lives of children and driving up medical costs for all. While many factors contribute to asthma, smoking during pregnancy is a well-established one and one that can be avoided. Eliminating smoking during pregnancy would significantly reduce the prevalence of childhood asthma for this generation and for future generations.”