Grandmothers, granddaughters and risk for autism

5 May


In a study of 14,500 participants conducted by researchers from the University of Bristol in the UK, which involved three generations of parents and children from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), 177 OF 7000 grandchildren with autistic traits were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

An association between autism or autism-like traits and maternal grandmother’s (but not grandfather’s) smoking was seen. The association was not related to the mother’s smoking status. Speculation is that the damage is carried in the mitochondria which are passed down via the mother. But the effect of this process was not seen for grandsons.

Lesson learned? "We already know that protecting a baby from tobacco smoke is one of the best things a woman can do to giver her child a healthy start in life. Now we’ve found that not smoking during pregnancy could also give their future grandchildren a better start too." (Professor Jean Golding, author).

Comment: The finding suggests a role of an environmental factor, tobacco smoking, as an epigenetic risk factor for autism.

Reference: Golding J, Ellis G, Gregory S et al, Grand-maternal smoking in pregnancy and grandchild’s autistic traits and diagnosed autism. Scientific Reports, Article Number 46179, 2017.

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