A group of researchers has determined that the consumption of nicotine by the father can cause cognitive deficiencies in their children and grandchildren, according to a study published today by the specialized magazine PLOS Biology.
A team from Florida State University, led by Professor Pradeep Bhide, concluded through an analysis with mice that nicotine involves epigenetic changes in the DNA of the paternal sperm, which leads to problems for the children.
So far, there has been consensus on the idea that mothers’ exposure to nicotine and other components of cigarette smoke can lead to behavioral disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (or ADHD) in multiple generations. decendents.
However, the findings regarding parents who use nicotine have been less clear, in part because in previous human studies it has been difficult to separate genetic factors (such as genetic predisposition to ADHD) from environmental factors, such as direct exposure to smoke of the cigarette.
To overcome this difficulty, Bhide and his colleagues exposed male mice to low doses of nicotine in the water they consumed during the stage in which these animals produce sperm.
They then rigged these rodents with females who had never been exposed to nicotine and discovered that the offspring of these couples showed hyperactivity, attention deficit and cognitive inflexibility.
When the females were linked with males that had not been exposed to nicotine, the offspring showed fewer cognitive deficits.
Likewise, the analysis of the spermatozoa of the males exposed to nicotine indicated that the promoter regions of multiple genes had been modified epigenetically, including the D2 gene of dopamine, which is fundamental for brain development and learning.
This discovery, according to the authors, suggests that this type of genetic modification probably contributes to cognitive deficits in children.
“Our findings underscore the need for more research on the effects of smoking on the part of the father, and not just the mother, on the health of their children,” Bhide concluded.