OHSU research shows vitamin C counteracts some negative impacts of smoking on unborn babies

BEAVERTON, Ore. Research conducted in monkeys at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, Oregon Health & Science University, suggests high doses of vitamin C may have potential to counteract some negative impacts of smoking in unborn babies. The research may benefit thousands of babies born to mothers who continue to smoke throughout pregnancy despite physician warnings. The research is published in the current edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"The findings of this research are highly applicable to humans," said Eliot Spindel, M.D., Ph.D., a scientist in the Division of Neuroscience at the Oregon National Primate Research Center and senior author of the paper. "The sad reality is that approximately 11 percent of pregnant mothers continue to smoke during pregnancy -- this translates to about a half a million American women a year. Reflecting the highly addictive nature of smoking, these women continue to smoke despite the warnings of their physicians and despite a tremendous public awareness campaign aimed at preventing smoking during pregnancy. While this research finding may assist the babies of these mothers, it does not make smoking during pregnancy more acceptable. It would only become a last resort treatment when an expectant mother is unwilling to stop smoking."

Smoking during pregnancy can cause premature delivery, growth retardation and has been blamed for 5 percent to 10 percent of all fetal and neonatal deaths. Maternal smoking can also cause decreased pulmonary function and increased respiratory illness in offspring. Previous research by the Spindel lab demonstrated that nicotine is a key cause of these lung development problems. Specifically, nicotine crosses the placenta where it interacts with cells in the unborn infant's developing lungs.

While past research in the Spindel lab has helped define how nicotine causes these changes, many of the specific mechanisms for infant l

Contact: Jim Newman
Oregon Health & Science University

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