A study by Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed) researchers, led by an Indian scientist, has proved that the detrimental effects of maternal smoking can cause the third generation of offspring to suffer from chronic lung disease.
The study, published online on August 2 in the American Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, reported that maternal nicotine exposure during pregnancy is linked to asthma in the third generation in disease models.
This is known as a "transgenerational" linkage because the third generation was never directly exposed to nicotine or smoking. Previous research had found nicotine exposure was linked to asthma in the second generation, or was a "multigenerational" cause of asthma.
Dr Rehan who hails from Delhi did his MD (Pediatrics) from New Delhi, before getting further specialized experience in Neonatology from the UK, Canada, and the US.
"Even though there are multiple causes for childhood asthma, research linking this serious chronic condition to maternal nicotine exposure during pregnancy for up to three generations should give mothers-to-be even more reasons to reconsider smoking," said Virender K. Rehan, MD, an LA BioMed lead researcher and the corresponding author of the study.
"Eliminating the use of tobacco during pregnancy could help halt the rise in childhood asthma and ensure healthier children for generations to come."
Worldwide, approximately 250 million women smoke daily, and the number of people living with asthma is expected to grow by about a third by 2025, reaching approximately 400 million.
“Now there is strong evidence that these alterations in the structure and function of the lung caused by nicotine exposure during pregnancy can also be passed from one generation to the next,” Dr. Rehan added.
The current study "paves the way for determining the epigenetic mechanisms" behind smoking and the transmission of asthma to future generations, the researchers concluded.