Wayne State Research Finds Pregnant Women Exposed to Lead Affects Multiple Generations

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A team of Wayne State University researchers have discovered that mothers with high levels of lead in their blood can affect the fetal cells of their unborn children and also their grandchildren.

Douglas Ruden, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and the lead researcher of the study, says he found that if a pregnant woman is exposed to lead, the lead passes through the placenta into the baby’s bones and other organs. He says the lead can also affect the unborn child’s brain, causing developmental problems.

“Our results suggest that lead exposure during pregnancy affects the DNA methylation status of the fetal germ cells, which leads to altered DNA methylation in grandchildren’s neonatal dried blood spots,” Ruden says.

He says the changes in DNA can be detected in dried blood spots beyond one generation. The blood spots from both the mothers and children in the study were obtained from the Michigan Neonatal Biobank, a resource that has most of the neonatal dried blood spots from children born in Michigan since 1984.

Ruden says the study may help to identify genes that may serve as biomarkers for future studies that look at risks for multiple generations.

The study is published in Scientific Reports

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