Maternal Nicotine Exposure: Long-Term Effect on Lung Integrity in the Offspring


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Abstract

Nicotine occurs in tobacco smoke. It is a habit forming substance and is prescribed by health professionals to assist smokers to quit smoking. It is rapidly absorbed from the lungs of smokers. It crosses the placenta and accumulates in the developing fetus. Nicotine induces formation of oxygen radicals and at the same time also reduces the anti-oxidant capacity of the lungs. Nicotine and the oxidants cause point mutations in the DNA molecule thereby changing the program that controls lung growth and maintenance of lung structure. The data available indicate that maternal nicotine exposure induces a persistent inhibition of glycolysis and a drastic increased cAMP level. These metabolic changes are thought to contribute to the faster aging of the lungs of the offspring of mothers that are exposed to nicotine via the placenta and mother's milk. The lungs of these animals are more susceptible to damage as shown by the gradual deterioration of the lung parenchyma. The rapid metabolic and structural aging of the lungs of the animals that were exposed to nicotine via the placenta and mother's milk, and thus during phases of lung development characterized by rapid cell division, is likely due to “programming” induced by nicotine and not by inadequate placental perfusion pressure and nutrient supply. It is therefore not advisable to use nicotine during gestation and lactation.

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