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7-26-11 Cardiovascular Disease Linked to Nicotine Patch and Gum

LLU Researchers find prenatal use could increase risk for disease later in life for offspring



  Dr. Daliao Xiao working in his laboratory  
Researchers at Loma Linda University (LLU) suggest that the use of nicotine patches or gum by pregnant women may lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease for their offspring later in life.

"Our recent studies may provide potential links between cigarette smoking or even using nicotine patches or gum and long-term harm for the child," notes Daliao Xiao, PhD, principal investigator for the study.

Using animal models, Dr. Xiao—an assistant research professor at the Center for Perinatal Biology at LLU — applied nicotine subcutaneously to pregnant rats and studied their offspring three to five months after birth. He discovered that the offspring suffered from hypertension and other heart problems not found among the control group.

"The hypertensive response is modified by outside stress," he adds. "The nicotine use by the mother also links to other forms of cardiovascular dysfunction."

Dr. Xiao and his colleagues found that changes in fetal blood vessel walls, which are caused by chemicals known as reactive oxygen species (ROS), are responsible for the development of hypertension. The ROS cause permanent changes and actually alter the programming that controls the behavior of blood vessels throughout the life of an individual.

"This programming clearly links nicotine exposure to long-term damage in the offspring," Dr. Xiao adds.

Despite the fact that his study was performed on rats, Dr. Xiao says other studies using different animal models have obtained similar results. "If this phenomenon also occurs in humans, nicotine use or smoking during pregnancy may represent a novel risk factor for the unborn that results in accelerated cardiovascular diseases in adulthood," he infers.

Dr. Xiao recommends refraining from nicotine use during pregnancy.

"More and more studies support the fact that nicotine patches and gums produce problems when used by pregnant women," he says.

Findings of the study—which was titled "Prenatal Gender-Related Nicotine Exposure Increases Blood Pressure Response to Angiotensin II in Adult Offspring" — were published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.


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