May 23, 2017 – Smoking and Methylation


Anchor lead: How does smoking lead to harm for fetuses? Elizabeth Tracey reports

Everyone knows that pregnant women shouldn’t smoke, with a Johns Hopkins study under the direction of Kristen Voegtline perhaps identifying one way cigarette smoke exposure may harm the developing baby, via the addition of a chemical group known as a methyl group to a specific gene.

Voegtline: We’ve used this opportunity to look at prenatal exposure to cigarette smoking. With that we find that there’s a methylation difference in boys. So boys that are exposed to prenatal cigarette smoking show greater methylation, specifically at this site in the gene called cip1a1, this is a detoxifying gene. So the fact that males may detoxify an adverse exposure differently than girls, where we didn’t find a difference, we find to be potentially very interesting. :29

Voegtline says that this identification may one day be used as a biomarker to assess risk, but for now, reiterates the fact that smoking is known to be harmful to a developing fetus so the best exposure is no exposure. At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.