By Wayne State University – Office of the Vice President for Research
A team of researchers at Wayne State University have discovered 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, Multigenerational epigenetic inheritance in humans: DNA methylation changes associated with maternal exposure to lead can be transmitted to the grandchildren, was published online this week in Scientific Reports.
It’s a known fact that babies in the womb can be affected by low levels of lead exposure. If a pregnant woman is exposed to lead, the lead passes through the placenta into the baby’s developing bones and other organs. Pregnant women with a past exposure to lead can also affect the unborn child’s brain, causing developmental problems later in life. Previous research studies have suggested that exposure to heavy metal toxicants can influence a person’s global DNA methylation profile.
In the recent Wayne State study led by Douglas Ruden, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology and the Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, director of epigenomics, and program leader in the Center for Urban Responses to Environmental Stressors, he and his research team revealed that lead exposure can cause specific changes in DNA methylation, which can be detected in dried blood spots beyond one generation. The neonatal blood spots from both the mothers and children in this study were obtained from the Michigan Neonatal Biobank, a unique resource that has most of the neonatal dried blood spots from children born in Michigan since 1984.
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