The effect of maternal nicotine exposure on cell proliferation on the lungs of the offspring
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Tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke is one of the biggest contributing factors to a growing epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), primarily cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular and chronic lung diseases which account for 63% of all deaths worldwide (WHO, 2011). An increased concern is in pregnant women who smoke. They not only expose themselves to nicotine, but also their unborn child. Cigarette smoking during pregnancy is associated with many developmental and growth complications. There are critical periods within the “program” that directs normal growth and development, during which the fetus is vulnerable to the effects of external factors. During these critical periods of development the program can be changed to increase the susceptibility of the fetal organs to disease and increased risk of adverse health consequences in adulthood. Health care professionals have tried to reduce the consumption of tobacco smoke by prescribing nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to pregnant females as an alternative to smoking, without considering the effects of nicotine on the developing embryo and the health risk that might arise after birth. It is known that nicotine induces oxidant formation with resulting oxidative effects. This induces an overload of oxidants in the fetus and a decrease in the antioxidant capacity thereof. This may interfere with normal lung development.