Chromosome component in children impacted by prenatal smoke exposure

Katherine Theall, Cecile Usdin Professor in Women’s Health at the Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, has published a new study in the American Journal of Public Health that finds prenatal exposure to cigarette smoke can impact parts of chromosomes in children.03 Chomosome

Theall and fellow researchers at Tulane SPHTM investigated telomere length, a repetitive DNA sequence located at the ends of chromosomes that stabilizes the chromosome. Telomeres are a part of chromosomes that have been identified as a biomarker of cellular aging. After reviewing results from more than 100 New Orleans children aged 4 to 14, researchers found that telomere length was shorter among children who were exposed to smoke during pregnancy. Short telomere length has been associated with negative health outcomes.

“Stress exposure, both environmental and psychosocial, during prenatal life may result in biological changes that alter developmental trajectories and may alter lifelong health trajectories,” says Dr. Theall. “Identifying the earliest developmental time points for prevention and intervention is challenging but critical if we expect to improve health outcomes.”

Theall is director of the Mary Amelia Women’s Center at Tulane University, which focuses on community building for health, health promotion, research, and advocacy for improved health for all women.

—Dee Boling

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About Tulane University SPHTM

Tulane's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine is the oldest school of public health in the country and the only American school of tropical medicine. Our mission is to advance public health knowledge, promote health and well-being, and prevent disease, disability, and premature mortality. This is accomplished through academic excellence in education of public health professionals, rigorous scientific research of public health problems, creative partnerships to advance the practice of public health, and innovative service to the local, national, and international public health community.
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