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Smoking Mothers May Alter the DNA of Their Children 155

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 28, 2014 @08:34PM (#47554317)




    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 restaurant was advertising breakfast any time. So I ordered french toast in the renaissance. - Steven Wright, comedian