Lead Exposure In Mothers May Affect Future Generations

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New research from Wayne State University suggests that mothers with high levels of lead in their blood not only affect the fetal cells of their unborn children, but also their grandchildren.

Their study looks at multigenerational epigenetic inheritance in humans. They found that DNA methylation changes associated with maternal exposure to lead can be transmitted to the grandchildren.

“Our results suggest that lead exposure during pregnancy affects the DNA methylation status of the fetal germ cells, which leads to altered DNA methylation in grandchildren’s neonatal dried blood spots,” Douglas Ruden, who led the study, said in a statement. “This is the first demonstration that an environmental exposure in pregnant mothers can have an epigenetic effect on the DNA methylation pattern in the grandchildren.”

For the study, researchers tested their hypothesis that human fetal germ cell exposure to environmental toxins causes epigenetic changes in the newborn blood from a grandchild of an exposed pregnant woman.

“Our results suggest that lead exposure during pregnancy affects the DNA methylation status of the fetal germ cells, which leads to altered DNA methylation in grandchildren’s neonatal dried blood spots,” Ruden said. “This is the first demonstration that an environmental exposure in pregnant mothers can have an epigenetic effect on the DNA methylation pattern in the grandchildren.”

The research team stated that this novel, two-generational study design might be able to identify the genes that may serve as possible candidate biomarkers for future transgenerational risk assessment studies.

 

 

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