Asthma is a serious public health problem. An estimated 300 million people worldwide suffer from this sometimes deadly lung disease, a number expected to increase to 400 million by 2025. One well-established risk factor for asthma is having a mother who smoked during her pregnancy. However, researchers recently discovered that smoking can have a lasting legacy. When animal mothers are exposed to nicotine during pregnancy-a proxy for smoking-their grandchildren were also at an increased risk of asthma, even though they were never exposed to nicotine themselves.
Wondering if this dangerous heritage might extend even farther down the family line, Virender K. Rehan and his colleagues at Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center (LA BioMed) exposed pregnant rats to nicotine. They then tested an additional generation-the mothers' great-grand-rats-for signs of asthma. Their results suggest that this group of rats is also at an increased risk of this condition, bearing the brunt of nicotine exposure three generations in the past.
The article is entitled "Perinatal Nicotine-Induced Transgenerational Asthma." It appears in the Articles in PresS section of the American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology, published by the American Physiological Society. It is available online at http://bit.ly/19fcw03.