Gene variants may determine lung function and susceptibility to maternal smoking

A tiny variation within a single gene can determine not only how quickly and well lungs grow and function in children and adolescents, but how susceptible those children will be to exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke, even in utero, according to researchers from the University of Southern California.

"Many factors can affect lung function and growth, including genetic variation and environmental exposures such as tobacco smoke and air pollutants," said Carrie Breton, Sc.D., lead author of the study conducted at the University of Southern California. "We wanted to determine whether specific gene variations would have measurable and predictable effects on lung function growth and susceptibility to environmental insults. We looked at a class of genes known to be involved in antioxidant defense, the glutathione-s transferase (GST) genes. Overall, we found that variation in several of the GST genes was important. This was particularly true for children of mothers who had smoked during pregnancy."

The researchers analyzed eight years’ worth of lung function metrics and genotyping data from more than 2,100 children from two cohorts of fourth-graders. The lung function measurements used were maximal mid expiratory flow rate (MMEF), forced vital capacity (FVC) and forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1).

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