Study reveals tobacco's toll on women's placentas
Smoking while pregnant causes severe DNA damage to cells in the placenta and significantly impairs its function, new University of Otago research suggests.
The new findings emerge from an analysis of 236 placenta samples donated by women in the Otago Placenta Study (OPuS) after delivery. Of these women, 52 smoked throughout their pregnancy, 34 gave up smoking four weeks before delivery or earlier, and the remaining 150 were non-smokers.
The study results will appear in the January edition of the international journal Human Pathology.
Lead author Dr Tania Slatter of the Department of Pathology says smoking in pregnancy has long been linked to lower birth weights and increased risk of serious complications, though the exact mechanisms are unknown.
Now, Dr Slatter and colleagues have identified greatly increased rates of double-strand DNA breaks in smokers' placental cells. Such breaks are a severe form of DNA damage that can lead to cells becoming genetically unstable.