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Paternal Smoking Can Affect Multiple Generations of Descendants

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
"Photo booth: The Smoking Man" by simpleinsomnia is licensed under CC BY 2.0Pradeep G. Bhide, Ph.D.
Professor | Jim and Betty Ann Rodgers Eminent Scholar Chair of Developmental Neuroscience
Director, Center for Brain Repair
Department of Biomedical Sciences
Florida State University College of Medicine
Tallahassee, FL

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Until now, much attention had been focused on the adverse effects of cigarette smoking by pregnant women on their children’s cognitive development. Some reports suggested that cigarette smoking during pregnancy can produce harmful effects in multiple generations of descendants (transgenerational effects).

Not much had been known about the effects of paternal smoking, although more men smoke cigarettes than women. Our study shows that paternal nicotine exposure can be deleterious to the offspring in multiple generations. That is, cognitive function may be compromised in children and grandchildren of a nicotine-exposed male. Of course, our study was done in mice and not men.  However, since studies done in mice on maternal nicotine exposure produced results consistent with studies done in women and children, we believe that he findings from our present study likely can be extrapolated to humans. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: That nicotine use by men, whether via traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes, vapes, chewing tobacco, could produce significant neurobehavioral changes in multiple generations of descendants. Our data raise the possibility that some of the cognitive disabilities found in today’s generation of children and adults may be attributable to adverse environmental insults such as nicotine use prevalent a generation or two ago. For example, cigarette smoking was more common and more readily accepted by the population in the 1940s, 50s and 60s compared to today. It would seem that past “sins” may not only visit upon the present but also the future!”

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: A major finding from our study is that the effects of paternal nicotine exposure are transmitted to descendants via epigenetic modification of spermatozoal the DNA by nicotine. Future research could examine how nicotine produces these epigenetic changes and the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in the transmission of the epigenetic changes from one generation to the next. 


Nicotine exposure of male mice produces behavioral impairment in multiple generations of descendants

Deirdre M. McCarthy, Thomas J. Morgan Jr., Sarah E. Lowe, Matthew J. Williamson, Thomas J. Spencer,Joseph Biederman, Pradeep G. Bhide


Published: October 16, 2018

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Last Updated on October 17, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD