Scientists supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), part of the National Institutes of Health, report that women who smoke during pregnancy and carry a fetus whose DNA lacks both copies of a gene involved in detoxifying cigarette smoke substantially increase their baby's chances of being born with a cleft lip and/or palate.
According to the scientists, about a quarter of babies of European ancestry and possibly up to 60 percent of those of Asian ancestry lack both copies of the gene called GSTT1. Based on their data, published in the January issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics , the scientists calculated that if a pregnant woman smokes 15 cigarettes or more per day, the chances of her GSTT1-lacking fetus developing a cleft increase nearly 20 fold. Globally, about 12 million women each year smoke through their pregnancies.
Dr. Jeff Murray, a scientist at the University of Iowa and senior author of the study, noted that parents who are considering having a child and need added motivation for the mother to quit smoking might one day be tested to determine their GSTT1 status. Because the fetus inherits its genes from both mother and father, the test would determine the likelihood of the baby developing without the GSTT1 gene to detoxify the cigarette smoke.
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