Though my dad smoked for many years, asthma has never run in our family. The interesting thing though, is that my cousins and I could potentially have children that develop asthma, even though most of us don’t smoke. This is because researchers have found that asthma can develop even if the only smoker in your family was your grandparent.

It’s estimated that over 300 million people around the world suffer from asthma, and this number is expected to increase to 400 million by 2025. Though it’s been long established that parental smoking greatly increases the chance of childhood asthma, it’s now being discovered that smoking can have a lasting legacy and even grandchildren of smokers can develop asthma when they’re little.

To see if children even further down the line could develop the disorder Virender K. Rehan and his colleagues at Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center conducted a study using lab rats in which the rats were exposed to nicotine during pregnancy.

The researchers eventually use the great grandchildren of these original mice to test for signs of asthma. To simulate the signs of smoking on humans, the original rats were injected with nicotine underneath the skin daily when they were six days into their pregnancy until 21 days after birth. The babies were then used to breed another generation, and those babies were used to breed one more generation. It was this generation of mice that was tested for asthma.

It was found that these great grand-mice were far more likely to develop asthma than a typical mouse that hadn’t been injected with nicotine. The great grandchildren of the nicotine injected mice were compared to a placebo group which had originally been injected with a placebo instead of nicotine.

This study, though it wasn’t conducted with human research, was still important because they suggest that smoking may have effects that reverberate through generations and that smoke it may particularly influence the likelihood of developing asthma. The authors of the study are still unsure why smoking can cause this disorder even generations later, but they suspect that smoking may activate or turn off specific genes, and this leads children to develop asthma more easily.

Source: American Physiological Society (APS) (2013, September 20). Transmitting future asthma by smoking today. ScienceDaily.

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