Children of mother's exposed to high levels of arsenic may face a higher risk of cancer and other diseases later in life, according to a study released yesterday. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Chulabhorn Research Institute in Thailand examined the blood from umbilical cords of 32 Thai women exposed to high levels of arsenic.
They found that their offspring had about 450 genes which were either significantly more active or less active than babies whose mothers who had not been exposed.
The team then isolated 11 of those genes which were more active and associated with inflammation, which can lead to an increased risk of cancer later in life, according to the findings which were reported in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS Genetics published by the Public Library of Science in San Francisco.
"The function of those 11 genes are involved in cellular stress responses particularly inflammatory responses," said one of the paper's authors Leona D. Samson, who is also the director of MIT's Centre for Environmental Health Sciences or CHES. The other authors were Mathuros Richirawat from Chulabhorn and Rebecca C Fry of CHES.
"We know that chronic inflammation at least in adults can predispose them to cancer," she said. "We don't now that in the case of these babies obviously but there is a possibility." Samson said it remained unclear exactly how the arsenic found its way to the babies. "Either it's a response of the mother transmitted to baby inutero or arsenic getting across the placenta," she said.