The effect of maternal nicotine exposure on rat lung tissue morphology. ' a light and electron microscopic study
The infants of women who smoke during pregnancy have a lower birth mass than those born of women who abstain. Animal studies reveal that reduced growth due to maternal nicotine exposure during gestation is accompanied by lung hypoplasia. Biochemical analysis suggests that these lungs contain more cells which implies that lung damage occurs. In this study we examined the in vivo effects of maternal nicotine exposure (lmg/Kg/day), the equivalent of 32 cigarettes per day, on the following parameters of fetal and neonatal Wistar rat lung:(i) the content and distribution of glycogen in fetal and neonatal lung (ii) the status of connective tissue in neonatal lung (iii) the cell composition of the alveoli in neonatal lung. Fetal rat lungs of ages 17, 18, 19 and 20 days and neonatal lungs of 1, 7, 14 and 21 day old pups were used. Light microscope techniques and special stains were used to investigate glycogen, connective tissue, macrophage numbers and morphological status of the lungs. Fetal rat lungs of ages 17, 18, 19 and 20 days and neonatal lungs of 1, 7, 14 and 21 day old pups were used. Light microscope techniques and special stains were used to investigate glycogen, connective tissue, macrophage numbers and morphological status of the lungs. Transmission electron microscope (TEM) techniques were employed to investigate the characteristics and composition of the alveolus The results show clearly that maternal nicotine exposure elevates pulmonary alveolar macrophage numbers'(PAM's) and lung glycogen levels. The quantity of elastic fibres in 1 day old neonates was significantly reduced but no changes in the quantity of reticulin and collagen fibres was observed. As a result of this change in connective tissue status, emphysema-like lesions and alveolar collapse was evident in the lungs of nicotine-exposed pups. TEM investigations revealed that changes to the composition of alveoli occurred. These included increased numbers of type II pneumocytes with high numbers of lamellar bodies with degenerative changes. Thickening of the blood-air barrier was also observed. The effect of maternal nicotine exposure has been documented in this study. However, it has not been possible to pinpoint the mechanisms involved but explanations have been proposed. Further research is required to elucidate the mechanisms by which nicotine produces these effects. Information thus obtained could help prevent the harmful effects to the fetus and neonate caused by smoking during pregnancy.