Babies of Smoking Moms Born to Gasp and Wheeze

Filed under: In The News, Health

smoking during pregnancy

Women who smoke are more likely to have children with asthma. Credit: Getty Images

You don't have to be a smoker to gasp and wheeze like one.

All you need is a mother who ignored the warnings and smoked when she was pregnant with you. She could well have altered your basic genetic code to where you'll periodically be fighting for breath all your life.

Maybe you can thank her by giving her a debilitating condition of her own someday.

The Daily Mail in London reports researchers at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles have found women who smoke are more likely to have children with asthma. That's because their smoking fundamentally alters their unborn babies' DNA.

The process is called DNA methylation -- and even though it conjures images of Frank Sinatra taking a long drag on a smoke while slinging his sport coat over this shoulder -- researchers tell the Daily Mail it is definitely not cool.

DNA methylation causes negative changes in the AXL gene, a key player in many cancers that beset humans.

"We found that children exposed to maternal smoking in utero had a 2.3 percent increase in DNA methylation in AXL," researcher Carrie Breton tells the Daily Mail. "These results confirm results from a prior study and present compelling evidence that environmental exposure to tobacco smoke during pregnancy may alter DNA methylation levels."

Researchers asked mothers and grandmothers to complete detailed questionnaires about 173 children, the Daily Mail reports, adding that DNA samples were also collected from the cheek cells of mothers and children for examination.

According to the newspaper, researchers found a "smoking" gun. Breton tells the Daily Mail there's only one conclusion.

"Environmental exposures occurring in utero have the potential to affect DNA methylation patterns before birth," she says.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.
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