Carrying the Pollution Gene

Pollutants’ impact is likely multi-generational, according to epigeneticists tracking how pollutants alter gene regulation at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Without changing the DNA code, epigenetic changes dictate “which genes are switched on and off,” writes Carrie Arnold.

Preliminary animal studies by Bloomberg School scientists have linked exposure to pollutants like smog and smoking with altered gene activity lasting seconds, weeks or several years. Meanwhile, researchers finding similar patterns in humans are looking to scale up research to confirm the link.

Much more data is needed, but if the science gets a mother to quit smoking: “We won’t just be helping one generation, we’ll be helping many,” says Environmental Health and Engineering pollution researcher Winnie Tang.

Hopkins Bloomberg Public Health

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