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Medicine

Smoking Mothers May Alter the DNA of Their Children 155

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the that-explains-the-hooves dept.
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Pregnant women who smoke don't just harm the health of their baby—they may actually impair their child's DNA, according to new research. A genetic analysis shows that the children of mothers who smoke harbor far more chemical modifications of their genome — known as epigenetic changes — than kids of non-smoking mothers. Many of these are on genes tied to addiction and fetal development. The finding may explain why the children of smokers continue to suffer health complications later in life.
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Smoking Mothers May Alter the DNA of Their Children

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  • What about... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gnu-sucks (561404) on Monday July 28, 2014 @07:08PM (#47554125) Journal

    What about smokers who abstain from smoking during pregnancy but otherwise chain smoke through life?

    • Re:What about... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by skids (119237) on Monday July 28, 2014 @07:19PM (#47554211) Homepage

      While there are almost definitely some sort of lesser consequences than those who smoke during pregnancy, what will happen to them is they will be wrongfully blamed for all society's perinatal ills for the next month or so due to the fact that journalists cannot choose their language carefully.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Tailhook (98486)

        due to the fact that journalists cannot choose their language carefully

        Respectfully, that is profoundly naive. The language used is carefully chosen to foster this ambiguity and instigate the blame you anticipate. Instilling hate in the hoi polloi necessitates rounding off corners that would otherwise need qualification.

        Smoking == crime. Smokers == enemies of the people.

        That's all you need to know.

        • Re: What about... (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          An enemy of the people who also fund a Significant number of government programs via the taxes they pay on cigarettes. If every smoker up and quit tomorrow it would create a massive economic crisis.

          The government doesn't want people to quit. they are just trying to figure out the max people will keep paying so that the coffers stay full. You can bet on the day tobacco tax revenue starts to drop we will see a halt in the taxes or something else will suddenly be in the crosshairs.

          • Yeah, I'm sure people living longer and better-quality lives will devastate the economy.
            • by sjames (1099)

              It will harm the economy. Less tax revenue for starters. Later on, higher medical costs and more social security costs. Smokers tend to die before collecting a lot of social security and before they get expensive ongoing medical care.

        • by Shadow99_1 (86250)

          As someone allergic to some chemicals released in the burning of plants (from bonfires to cigars and everything in between)... Smokers are typically my enemy. Especially since smoking fosters special 'circles' where ever they work. I can't even claim my mandatory 15 minute breaks and the smokers get dozens of 'smoke breaks' every day because management tends to also be smokers. Also the cloud hanging around any entryway as the smokers are not allowed to smoke around the buildings is oh so fun for me to walk

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by riverat1 (1048260)

      To that I'd add what about mothers who don't smoke themselves but are exposed to secondhand smoke* either because their partner/roommate smokes or there is smoking in places they hang out?

      *Before anyone gets all huffy about secondhand smoke being a problem I have experience with it. I was a non-smoker who roomed for a couple of years at college with a pack a day smoker. When I moved out I found I'd become addicted and started smoking (stupid, I know).

      • Re:What about... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@NOspAM.gmail.com> on Monday July 28, 2014 @11:10PM (#47555089) Homepage

        *Before anyone gets all huffy about secondhand smoke being a problem I have experience with it. I was a non-smoker who roomed for a couple of years at college with a pack a day smoker. When I moved out I found I'd become addicted and started smoking (stupid, I know).

        No you had another reason, you're just placing blame on those around you for smoking. Whether it was stress, it seemed like that was the likely cause, or something else. My father smoked a pack to two per-day, for close to 15 years. My grandparents(all three that were still alive) smoked upwards of 1-3 packs per day, until they died. I never became addicted, I had no desire to smoke. The only thing I missed was the smell of burning tobacco, and fresh picked. That's probably because as a teenager I used to pick the stuff(meaning I got all the crap oozing from the plants on me), but again I didn't start smoking because of it either.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Different people have different tolerances. You're dismissing the GP's model based on a sample size of one.

      • I really love the people who claim that second hand smoke is worse for you than first hand smoke. A person who smokes is getting both first hand smoke and second hand smoke, so the only logical conclusion if those who dont smoke are worse off than those who do is that smoking is actually better for you than not smoking [youtube.com]! *

        * Yes, I know this claim is based on the fact that there is carbon monoxide in second hand smoke [nih.gov], not from empirical evidence.
        • I really love the people who claim that second hand smoke is worse for you than first hand smoke.

          I am not really sure how you would interpret the GP to "second hand smoke is worse for you than first hand smoke." I do not really see it from the post. What I am seeing is that how second hand smoke would affect the baby of a mother who is in her pregnancy and not a smoker. The question is related to the GP's parent post talking about a mother who is a smoker but stops smoking in her pregnancy.

          Also to me, there is no level of danger between first and second hand smoker, but there is only harmful or not

          • "I am not really sure how you would interpret the GP to "second hand smoke is worse for you than first hand smoke." "

            I didn't really claim he did say that, now did I? He merely reminded me of the Andrew Dice Clay scene, which is so funny I fell out of my chair when I first heard it, and continues to be hilarious to me to this day. I thought I'd share it with you all. I hope you enjoyed it before coming back here to attempt to put words in my mouth.

            "Also to me, there is no level of danger between first an

      • by dcw3 (649211)

        Okay, I'm calling bullshit. Please link to any scientific evidence that it's possible to become addicted via second hand smoke.

        Your anecdote, and mine which is quite the opposite (raised and lived, and worked with smokers), really don't mean much.

    • by flyneye (84093)

      Couldn't matter much anyway, with all the "as yet unknown" effects of any number of "medicines","vaccinations",cleaning chemicals, fluoride, meth labs down the block, plastics everywhere inducing hormonal effects, butt picking fingers of the cook @ Taco Bell, McDonalds food,cosmetics, soaps, and any of the other things your wallow in all day , every day, something else will fuck up your zygote even more. Have a cigar!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by felixrising (1135205)
      There is evidence that adolescent boys who smoke, have epigenetic effects that change their sperm for the rest of their life, they produce children that are obese. http://www.reuters.com/article... [reuters.com]
      • by phyrz (669413)

        except that isn't evidence, its a correlation at best. maybe smokers just have bad diets therefore their children get fat.

      • There is even more solid evidence that people who believe everything they read shouldn't have children.
  • by Bing Tsher E (943915) on Monday July 28, 2014 @07:10PM (#47554143) Journal

    Perhaps there are people dumb enough to smoke while pregnant, but the alterations make their offspring less dumb. This is just a possibility. 'Alter' does not necessarily mean bad.

  • by Irate Engineer (2814313) on Monday July 28, 2014 @07:12PM (#47554159)
    Probably why they are Mothers in the first place.
  • Epigenetics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2014 @07:15PM (#47554179)

    Epigenetics also affected people in the Dutch famine of 1944 [wikipedia.org] (paper [doi], http link to paper [doi.org]). The children of mothers that were in the famine were smaller than average, and those children, too.

    • by rizole (666389)
      I might be being a pedant (Hey, it's /. afterall!) but wouldn't it be that the Dutch famine of 1944 affected children epigenetically rather than epigenetics affected children?
  • I was born in the 1950's, LONG before the surgeon general came out saying smoking was bad for you. Heck, the commercials of that era, had doctors advertising cigarettes! When my mother became pregnant with me, she was 25. When "the rabbit died" she quit until after I stopped nursing. Same thing for my younger sister 2 years later. Both of my parents quit for good in the early 70's after repeated nagging from myself, my younger sister & my older sister. Both are alive & well in their 80's now. Even b
    • When "the rabbit died"

      what does this mean.

      I see pregnant women today smoking and just shake my head. Oh well, it's a free country...even if you aren't quite so smart.

      it's a free country which means the government can't tell you what to do. doesn't stop you from rolling down your window and yelling, "stop smoking you stupid whores!"

      • by Qzukk (229616)

        what does this mean.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R... [wikipedia.org]

        • that's barbaric.
          • by dcw3 (649211)

            that's barbaric.

            Different times, and different ways of thinking. It's easy to judge in retrospect, and a little difficult to imagine a time when it was okay to skin those rabbits for a fur coat, and nobody would complain about it.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      When "the rabbit died" she quit until after I stopped nursing.

      Yeah, I got the same treatment. But all that means is that we "only" were at developmental risk due to smoking during the first, and most important phase of the pregnancy.

      I see pregnant women today smoking and just shake my head. Oh well, it's a free country...even if you aren't quite so smart.

      It is not and never has been a free country, the government was designed by a bunch of rich white men who wanted to retain control of it after all. That's why they left themselves various loopholes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2014 @07:34PM (#47554317)

    Diabetes.

    Obesity.

    Starvation.

    These all result in epigenetic changes to the DNA of a fetus.

    What's REALLY interesting/scary is that these changes themselves can be inherited.

    One of the best groups that has been followed and studied are survivors of starvation in the ghettos of WWII, polish ghetos IIRC.

    We've seen that children who were born to mothers who were actively starving during pregnancy, are more prone to the "thrifty" phenotype, more prone to abnormal weight gain and obesity, than those who's gestation was before or after. Analysis of their genes has shown they had changes in the methylation of certain key genes compared to their parents or peers, altering their expression. In other words, the cells of the developing fetus adapted to the stress they were exposed to, resulting in LIFE LONG ALTERATIONS in the EXPRESSION of their DNA. The DNA itself, DID NOT CHANGE, yet they had different expressions of those same genes, for the rest of their life!

    Crazy, right? Well, wait for this next bit, it'll really bake your noodle.

    The GRANDCHILDREN of those women who were starving while pregnant *inherited* the changes to their parent's DNA (male AND female parents!), even if their mother did not undergo the same stress that their grandmothers did. The altered phenotype they express may be less severe then that of their parent, but they maintain those altered methylation patterns.

    Another way we are finding this is children of women who are obese and/or hyperglycemic (gestational diabetes or poor diabetes control) are more prone to obesity or type 2 diabetes themselves, independent of post-gestational life. And if their mothers happen to have a gastric bypass and lose significant weight, then have another pregnancy? The children conceived after the weight loss seem to be no more likely to have weight issues or diabetes than children of non-obese women.

    On the one hand, this is exciting, because a whole new field of study is blossoming as we watch!

    On the other hand, even if we get the current obesity epidemic under control, or even reverse it, we're going to be feeling the effects for, literally, generations. Sins of the parents, indeed...

    (PS: And, no, I don't mean that to mean the children are being divinely punished for their parents acts. Give me a break, poetic license in a crappy situation.)

    • This makes great sense.

      In the wild, other mammals are completely capable of reabsorbing fetuses into their bodies during times of stress, giving evidence that the birth of a litter of young is predicated on environmental factors.

      If a mammal uses resource surplus & hardship as a determining factor to give birth, it is not much of a stretch to imagine genetic predisposition is formulated by those factors as well.

    • You know I think this is kind-of bollocks. It seems reasonable to me to assume that at times of environmental stress, an individual baby will survive or not depending on its genes. Therefore more babies with this "thrifty" phenotype will survive than those without, the thrifty phenotype having been constructed from genes already present in mother and father, and effectively randomly selected.

      So when a researcher arrives to study the genes, if he's a complete fucking moron, he will assume that somehow t
    • by devent (1627873)

      Great, and if you could provide the peer-reviewed articles of the studies then you would deserve the +5 Informative.

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      On the other hand, even if we get the current obesity epidemic under control, or even reverse it, we're going to be feeling the effects for, literally, generations. Sins of the parents, indeed...

      That is not the "on the other hand" takeaway for me. The takeaway is that smoking or sucking second-hand smoke during pregnancy is child abuse. I got both; my mom smoked until she found out she was pregnant, while she was trying to get pregnant, and my father never stopped up until his fairly recent death, and supposedly regularly smoked around my pregnant mother (I wasn't there, and she lies to herself regularly, so I can't really trust what she says either.) In spite of there being no family history of it

    • by spads (1095039)
      Your points are very interesting over-all, but this seems fallacious:

      Another way we are finding this is children of women who are obese and/or hyperglycemic (gestational diabetes or poor diabetes control) are more prone to obesity or type 2 diabetes themselves, independent of post-gestational life. And if their mothers happen to have a gastric bypass and lose significant weight, then have another pregnancy? The children conceived after the weight loss seem to be no more likely to have weight issues or di
  • I am sure there will be moms who want to make their kids the next X-man by smoking now
  • The changes probably make the child more tolerant to environmental pollution, so there!
  • Not surprised, I still smoke and feel way more physically and mentally addicted to that, then say alcohol which I gave up years ago.

  • by KitFox (712780) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:00PM (#47554439)

    Title got my attention and worried me a little bit.

    So do you need to smoke the mother before or after she's given birth to alter her childrens' DNA?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Given that marijuana causes neural changes and alters distribution of grey matter, it would be interesting to learn how it affects the DNA of children born to mothers that smoke it recreationally.

  • Adopt. That's what we did. My sons birth mother could hardly afford food, much less cigarettes. The 3rd world may suck for many things but they don't chain smoke and there sure as hell aren't any crack addicted parents.

    Kidding aside, you should adopt. There are children in need, and I love my kid as much, if not more than any kid I could have gotten the old fashion way. We were very lucky he needed parents.

    • by w_dragon (1802458)
      If you've in an area of the world where they grow tobacco people smoke, third world or not. Same way third world countries with poppies often have some level of opium problems. Drugs are cheap if you can produce them yourself.
      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        If you've in an area of the world where they grow tobacco people smoke, third world or not. Same way third world countries with poppies often have some level of opium problems. Drugs are cheap if you can produce them yourself.

        This study is effectively about mass-produced cigarettes, not about tobacco.

    • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

      I love my kid as much, if not more than any kid I could have gotten the old fashion way.

      That is not only sad, but really disturbing. Well, I guess if you would love an adopted child more than one you home-brewed, you did the right thing

  • by haruchai (17472) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:14PM (#47554493)

    steaming, sauteing, or even poaching will keep them plump & juicy

  • by The Grim Reefer (1162755) on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:29PM (#47554537)
    But being a man, I was always smart about which cigarettes I bought. I never bought the ones that caused cancer and all that other scary shit. I only smoked the ones that caused low birth weight and pregnancy complications. I figured since I would never be pregnant, those were the ones to go with. I could never figure out why the brands would keep switching though. ;-)
  • Children who smoke their mothers have bigger issues than DNA alterations.
  • I grew up in a haze of tobacco smoke with two heavy smoking parents. In the home, in the car, basically any time I spent with them I was exposed. As an adult living in a apartment building I regularly experience coughing and teary eyes from smoke that comes through from the hallway. It'll probably never happen but I'd be utterly thrilled is tobacco was entirely banned.
    • by dcw3 (649211)

      Having pretty much been through the same thing...raised by a smoking mom and grandparents, working with smokers until it was banned in our offices in the 80s, etc., etc....I can relate. That said, I'll never support a ban. Why? Because just like anything else you're told you can't have, it encourages people who want to rebel (typically teenagers). And, because I'm typically not in favor of telling someone what they can or cannot do, as long as they're not affecting someone else. Obviously, this would m

  • The key word is "may". For the illiterate ... "may" = "I Don't Know". In other words, this is another Jenny McCarthy Fear Monger article.
    • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

      The key word is "may". For the illiterate ... "may" = "I Don't Know". In other words, this is another Jenny McCarthy Fear Monger article.

      So it's actually smoking women that cause autism?

      That's just joking. I agree with you otherwise. This is like those creepy commercials that shows some dude that claims he lost his legs because of smoking.

      Smoking is just plain bad, which is why I gave it up in 1976. All of this FUD is becoming cruel.

      Nothing like suggesting to a pregnant woman that being around cigarette smoke is yet one more thing that she has to fear she'll harm her child with. She feels a tremendous weight of responsibility in the f

  • I'm one of many slashdotters (I'm sure) who's mother smoked while pregnant, drank (no doubt) as this behaviour wasn't seen as bad in the times (I was born in '59). No drugs, I suspect - can't imagine my mother (she's been gone 30 years) doing that!.

    I'm not saying that smoking/drinking isn't bad for the unborn child, but the odds may not be as loaded that way as you'd think. And my parents both smoked all the way to their deaths. I've never smoked.

    And yes, I'm normal - why do you ask?
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      No drugs, I suspect - can't imagine my mother (she's been gone 30 years) doing that!. [...] And yes, I'm normal - why do you ask?

      We know you're normal, you believe against all evidence that tobacco is not a drug.

    • by v3xt0r (799856)

      Hell, I'm convinced that by my mom smoking, she inadvertantly immunized me from smoking-related cancer. That's an awesome DNA mod. Thanks, Mom! =p

  • My eldest brother has asthma.

    My Dad smoked. He gave up before his second child was conceived. The rest of us don't have asthma.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You would figure someone on Slashdot would know better than implying that correlation proves causation. I have 2 cousins, 2 nephews, and 1 niece that all had or have asthma. None of their parents smoke, and smoking was not allowed in their houses. Both cousins were "cured" in time from their asthma, mostly by being treated for allergies (go figure that it was environmental and pet allergies and not tobacco right?). One of my 2 nephews smokes, with asthma, and he has less attacks than his brother and si

  • Many viruses affect tulips, causing streaked flowers, mottled leaves, distorted plants and stunted growth.
    One evil virus is the tobacco mosaic virus and yes it impacts animals too.

    For 50 years that I know many greenhouses for cut flowers have prohibited tobacco products
    and sterilize their cutting knives.

    Of interest a new virus has been found to infect the gut of many humans. It has only recently
    been identified and the value it provides to the human gut is the hot new research topic.

    The risks to humans from

  • So environmental factors result in DNA changes...is that new?

    I thought that those of us not blinded by religion were already of the opinion that this is part of evolution, adaptation, survival of the fittest and all that good stuff....

  • When I was born, my father stopped drinking and my mother started drinking. No one ever told me why.
  • Epigenitic changes are not changes in DNA, pretty much by definition.  They are the differences in gene expression caused by the chemistry of the surrounding environment. It is a fairly new field with the goal of finding the causes of differences between genetically identical subjects. The title should read, smoking expectant mothers adjust their body chemistry, possibly with long term impacts on their children's development.

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