Children who smoke as teenagers run the risk of damaging their future offspring’s genes, making them more likely to develop Asthma, obesity and low lung function,
The research, published in “Clinical Epigenetics,” is the first human study to uncover the biological mechanisms behind the effects of early smoking by parents on their children.
Researchers from the University of Southampton (UK) and the University of Bergen (Norway) examined the epigenetic profiles of 875 people aged 7 to 50 and their parents’ smoking behaviour.
The results showed epigenetic changes in 19 locations mapped to 14 genes in children of parents who smoked before age 15.
Such changes in the way DNA is packaged in cells (methylation) control (turn on and off) gene expression and are linked to asthma, obesity and wheezing.
“Our studies have shown that the health of future generations depends on the actions and decisions that young people make today – long before they become parents – especially children and mothers/grandmothers in early adolescence. both before pregnancy and during pregnancy,” says Cecilie Svens of the University of Bergen and leader of the RHINESSA study.
“Changes in epigenetic markers were more pronounced in boys whose parents started smoking during puberty compared to those whose parents started smoking at any point before conception,” says Neguse Kitaba of the University of Southampton, co-lead author of the paper.
“Early puberty may represent an important window of physiological changes in children. This is when the stem cells become established that will produce sperm for the rest of their lives.”
The team compared the smoking profiles of fathers who smoked before pregnancy with those of mothers who smoked before pregnancy.
“Interestingly, we found that 16 of the 19 markers associated with parental smoking in adolescence were not previously associated with maternal or personal smoking,” says Gerd Toril Morkve Knudsen of the University of Bergen and co-lead author of the study. . “This suggests that these new methylation biomarkers may be unique to children whose parents are exposed to tobacco in early puberty.”
Animal studies suggest nicotine in cigarette smoke may be the substance that causes epigenetic changes in offspring
gerd toril morkve knudsen
University of Bergen
Although the number of youth smokers in some countries is high, co-author John Holloway, of the University of Southampton and the NIHR Center for Biomedical Research Southampton, is concerned that many people are taking up vaping.
“Some animal studies suggest that nicotine in cigarette smoke may be the substance that causes epigenetic changes in the offspring,” says Holloway. That’s why it’s so worrying that today’s teens, especially boys, are exposed to very high levels of nicotine. I Vape,
The study is based on people whose parents smoked as teens in the 1960s and 70s, when tobacco smoking was very common. “We can’t be certain that vaping has the same effects across generations, but we shouldn’t wait a few generations for evidence to show what effects vaping can have on teenagers. We need to act now,” Holloway warned.
The findings also have important implications for public health. They suggest that failure to address harmful exposures among today’s adolescents could harm the respiratory health of future generations, leading to further health disparities in the coming decades.