Exposure to pollution in pregnancy causing adverse effects on babies is a possibility, a study by Texas A&M University revealed. The study reveals that the effects can be extensive and the effects can continue to seep into adulthood.
Leading the study at the Texas A&M University, are Associate Professor, Dr Natalie Johnson along with Carmen Lau, Jonathan Behlen, DVM among others. The study is published in the journal ‘Antioxidants’. The study has revealed that exposure to Air pollution has been associated with causing risk of low birth weight, preterm birth, and risk of developing asthma, into adulthood.
Exposure To Pollution In Pregnancy: The Study
Globally in 2019, due to air pollution, reportedly more than 6.6 million people died, accounting for around 20 percent of newborn deaths. The cause of the newborn deaths was mainly preterm birth and low birth weight. Researchers and Public Health Sector candidates have started analysing the detrimental effects of air pollution exposure to fully understand the cause behind these statistics. The effects of pollution and the responses to it during fetal development became crucial to understand to improve public health.
The study on the same by Texas A& M revealed that the effect of pollution due to exposure is mainly due to the pace of fetal growth and development. The pollutants and the magnitude of their effect on the genes have not been fully studied and understood yet. To learn the adverse effects of pollutants on genes, animal models, made to lack the Nrf2 gene were exposed like that found in diesel exhaust, the most common. Post-exposure, the effects of the pollutants on birth weight and the immune markers in the lung and liver tissue of newborn offspring were observed.
The Nrf2 gene found in the body is the gene that affects and controls immune function and stress response. However, the effects of the NrF2 in infants haven’t been studied extensively. To see the difference between the effects of pollution, during pregnancy, with and without the NrF2 gene in infants this study was conducted, to understand the role of Nrf2 in the fetal development stages. The research team at Texas A&M University monitored weight gain in pregnant animal models lacking NrF2 and recorded birth weights, immune markers in various tissues, and litter sizes of the offspring.
Exposure To Pollution In Pregnancy: Research Findings
The pollutant particles are mainly divided based on their size and texture into coarse, fine (less than 2.5 microns in dia), and ultrafine particles (less than 1/10th of a micron). Fine and Ultra Fine particles have been termed to be the biggest health hazards according to research. Research revealed that fine particle pollutant has increased respiratory diseases significantly. The size of ultrafine particles is speculated to cause an even bigger health risk since they can work deeper into airways.
The significant difference between NrF2 lacking animal models and the models with the Nrf2 gene was lower birth weights in the NrF2 deficient models. This indicates that Nrf2 may play some protective role during pregnancy. Some significant difference in the immune markers of the infant lung and liver tissue was also found during the research, pointing at the deficiency of functioning Nrf2 gene being the main contributor to the differences.
Other studies previously have found Nrf2 deficiency and its association with some chronic diseases. Adult Nrf2 genes lacking animal models were more likely to develop autoimmune diseases. This study even at this initial stage can prove very beneficial in neonatal and prenatal health and can act as a base for finding extensive data on ultrafine particles, improved public health, and establishing health standards on the same.
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