Newswise — Rockville, Md. (October 8, 2020)—Babies born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy are more likely to suffer from impaired lung development. They are also more susceptible to developing lung diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to a new research article published in the American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology. The article has been chosen as an APSselect article for October. 

Another key takeaway from the research is that the protein amphiregulin — which enables tissue homeostasis — could be used to interrupt impaired lung development in babies of mothers who smoked during pregnancy. Evidence also suggests prenatal smoke exposure impairs lung development in babies in which increased amphiregulin/epidermal growth factor receptor signaling might have a role. In addition, researchers found that prenatal smoke exposure resulted in fewer ciliated cells — which help to protect and clear the respiratory airways — during bronchiolar development. The study was conducted in 50 one-day-old mice. The experiment lasted five weeks, including one week of adaptation to smoke exposure.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates at least 5.5 million children and 19.2 million adults in the U.S. have asthma. There are 16 million adults in the U.S. with COPD. Both diseases make breathing difficult and are incurable.  

Read the full article, “Prenatal smoke exposure dysregulates lung epithelial cell differentiation in mouse offspring—Role for AREG-induced EGFR signaling,” published in the American Journal of Physiology-Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology. It is highlighted as one of this month’s “best of the best” as part of the American Physiological Society’s APSselect program. Read all of this month’s selected research articles.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact the APS Communications Office or call 301.634.7314. Find more research highlights in our Newsroom.

Physiology is a broad area of scientific inquiry that focuses on how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. The American Physiological Society connects a global, multidisciplinary community of more than 10,000 biomedical scientists and educators as part of its mission to advance scientific discovery, understand life and improve health. The Society drives collaboration and spotlights scientific discoveries through its 16 scholarly journals and programming that support researchers and educators in their work.