Maternal cocaine use affects long-term health of offspring

Maternal cocaine use affects long-term health of offspring

A study published in the open-access journal PLoS ONE reports that maternal cocaine use results in lasting neurochemical and functional changes in the offspring. Dr. Ashiwel Undieh, PhD (Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Thomas Jefferson University's Jefferson School of Pharmacy) and colleagues came to these conclusions while investigating how maternal cocaine use affects the long-term health of the child.

It is known from previous studies that cocaine exposed mothers tend to have offspring that demonstrate significant behavioral changes. Undieh and colleagues added to these findings by investigating the alterations in fetal epigenetic machinery of mothers exposed to cocaine.

Epigenetic refers to biological features such as DNA modifications that are stable over rounds of cell division and do not involve changing the underlying DNA sequence of the organism.

This current study uses mice to conclude that if mothers are exposed to cocaine during the last two trimesters of gestation, the result is potentially profound structural and functional changes in the epigenomic programs of neonatal and prepubertal offspring. The results suggest s strong link between maternal cocaine exposure and alterations in global DNA methylation, in CGI-specific methylation, and in the transcriptional processes of many genes that are responsible for coding proteins involved in critical neural functions.

Since cocaine is one of the most abused drugs in the Western hemisphere, the conclusions of this study are important for human mothers and children. It is widely known that when mothers abuse cocaine, there is an increase in the likelihood of both immediate and long-term harmful effects on both the mother and the child. Though there is not complete consensus on the effects of cocaine use by expectant mothers, animal studies have shown significant damage to nervous system structure and function in offspring.

Maternal Cocaine Administration in Mice Alters DNA Methylation and Gene Expression in Hippocampal Neurons of Neonatal and Prepubertal Offspring

Novikova SI, He F, Bai J, Cutrufello NJ, Lidow MS, et al.

PLoS ONE . 3(4): e1919.


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