Women unable to quit smoking while pregnant should take vit C pills

Daily vitamin C pills could reduce damage done to unborn babies’ lungs by pregnant mothers who smoke

  • Researchers gave half of a group of pregnant women vitamin C pills and the other half placebo pills
  • The babies of mothers who took 500 mg of vitamin C had healthier airways at three months old 
  • Smoking can lead to preterm birth, low birth weight, birth defects such as cleft lip, and reduced lung capacity
  • Scientists say the primary goal of health professionals should remain helping mothers quit smoking  

Pregnant women who struggle to quit smoking should take vitamin C to better protect the lungs of their unborn child, a new study suggests.

Researchers say babies, whose mothers took 500mg of vitamin C daily, had healthier airways at three months old than those whose mothers did not.

The team, led by Oregon Health & Science University, says the nutrient found in citrus fruits could provide a safe and inexpensive intervention for pregnant women hooked on cigarettes.

However, they stress that helping mothers quit smoking should remain the primary goal of health professionals and public health officials.  

A new study has found that pregnant women who smoked, but took 500 mg of vitamin C daily, had babies with healthier airways at three months old than those whose mothers did not (file image)

It is well known that women who smoke while pregnant create several health problems for their children.

Smoking raises the risk of premature birth, vaginal bleeding and problems with the placenta. 

It also increases a baby’s risk of defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate or a low birth weight. 

Additionally, if women smoke while pregnant, it could damage unborn babies’ lungs at crucial points in their development – leading to reduced lung capacity in later life.

For the study, the team based their tests on forced expiratory flows (FEFs), which measures the speed at which air coming out of the lungs during the middle portion of a forced exhalation. 

Researchers say these tests are a good measure of function because they can detect airway obstruction.

The team looked at more than 250 pregnant smokers who began the study between 13 and 23 weeks into their term.

All of the women received counseling on quitting smoking throughout the course of the study, with about one in 10 doing so.

Half of the women received a vitamin C pill and the other half received a placebo pill.    


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The babies of the women who took vitamin C pills did better on FEFs than the babies of those who took placebo pills. 

‘Smoking during pregnancy reflects the highly addictive nature of nicotine that disproportionately affects the most vulnerable populations,’ said lead author Dr Cindy McEvoy, a professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University. 

‘Finding a way to help infants exposed to smoking and nicotine in the womb recognizes the unique dangers posed by a highly advertised, addictive product and the lifetime effects on offspring who did not choose to be exposed.’ 

Dr McEvoy says the study supports the hypothesis that cigarette smoking reduces the amount of vitamin C available in the body.

By taking a supplement, mothers can protect their cells from the damage caused by free radicals.  

In a previous study led by Dr McEvoy, her team found the babies of mothers born to smokers had better lung function 72 hours birth when their mothers took 500 mg of vitamin C compared to the same dose of a placebo. 

However, that study did not use FEFs to measure lung function, which is what doctors use to diagnose lung disease in adults and older children. 

The infants in this study will continued to be monitored for lung function and to have respiratory outcomes analyzed.

For future studies, the researchers want to see if pregnant women taking vitamin C supplements earlier in pregnancy could provide greater outcomes.  

Dr McEvoy says that although vitamin C may be ‘a safe and inexpensive intervention’, the primary goal should be helping mother quit smoking.  

‘Although vitamin C supplementation may protect to some extent the lungs of babies born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy, those children will still be at greater risk for obesity, behavioral disorders and other serious health issues,’ she said.

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China halts work by team on gene-edited babies

China’s government ordered a halt Thursday to work by a medical team that claimed to have helped make the world’s first gene-edited babies, as a group of leading scientists declared that it’s still too soon to try to make permanent changes to DNA that can be inherited by future generations.

Chinese Vice Minister of Science and Technology Xu Nanping told state broadcaster CCTV that his ministry is strongly opposed to the efforts that reportedly produced twin girls born earlier this month. Xu called the team’s actions illegal and unacceptable and said an investigation had been ordered, but made no mention of specific actions taken.

Researcher He Jiankui claims to have altered the DNA of the twins to try to make them resistant to infection with the AIDS virus. Mainstream scientists have condemned the experiment, and universities and government groups are investigating.

He’s experiment “crossed the line of morality and ethics adhered to by the academic community and was shocking and unacceptable,” Xu said.

A group of leading scientists gathered in Hong Kong this week for an international conference on gene editing, the ability to rewrite the code of life to try to correct or prevent diseases.

Although the science holds promise for helping people already born and studies testing that are underway, a statement issued Thursday by the 14-member conference leaders says it’s irresponsible to try it on eggs, sperm or embryos except in lab research because not enough is known yet about its risks or safety.

The conference was rocked by the Chinese researcher’s claim to have helped make the world’s first gene-edited babies. Conference leaders called for an independent investigation of the claim by He, who spoke to the group Wednesday as international criticism of his claim mounted.

There is no independent confirmation of what He says he did. He was scheduled to speak again at the conference on Thursday, but he left Hong Kong and through a spokesman sent a statement saying “I will remain in China, my home country, and cooperate fully with all inquiries about my work. My raw data will be made available for third party review.”

Several prominent scientists said the case showed a failure of the field to police itself and the need for stricter principles or regulations.

“It’s not unreasonable to expect the scientific community” to follow guidelines, said David Baltimore, a Nobel laureate from California Institute of Technology who led the panel.

There already are some rules that should have prevented what He says he did, said Alta Charo, a University of Wisconsin lawyer and bioethicist and a conference organizer.

“I think the failure was his, not the scientific community,” Charo said.

Gene editing for reproductive purposes might be considered in the future “but only when there is compelling medical need,” with clear understanding of risks and benefits, and certain other conditions, said Dr. Victor Dzau, president of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine, one of the conference sponsors.

“Not following these guidelines would be an irresponsible act,” he added.

Other sponsors of the three-day conference are the Academy of Sciences of Hong Kong, the Royal Society of the United Kingdom and the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and U.S. National Academy Sciences.



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‘ve really defended pride: Chinese researchers-experiments on babies

In response to the vehement worldwide criticism of the Chinese researchers He Jiankui has defended his work, which should have led to the birth of the world’s first genetically modified babies.

The scientists must do more to help people with diseases, says Hey on Wednesday on a genome researchers-Congress in Hong Kong, where he is international experts the questions applied.

In this particular case, I’m really proud of

It was the first appearance of He, since he had triggered on Monday with one on Youtube has posted a Video with scientists and ethicists worldwide outrage. In it, he had proclaimed the birth of the first genetically modified babies Lulu and Nana.

The embryos made interventions with the young Genschere Crispr/Cas9 should make the children whose correct identity of the scientist a secret want to hold, thus resistant to HIV. An independent confirmation of the claim are not yet available.

Several couples without children were

In Hong Kong again He repeated that he has lots of pairs of healthy mother and a HIV-mounted total number of children infected father to Try and join in. At the end of one of the pairs of twins have. In this particular case, I’m really proud of it, said He. After the birth of his children he had received from the father a message that this promised to work hard to earn money and to always take care of his two daughters and his wife.

Q&A on scientist’s bombshell claim of gene-edited babies

Designer babies might be here sooner than anyone reckoned. A Chinese researcher who says he created gene-edited babies crossed what most scientists consider a forbidden line.

It’s not clear if the claim is true and if so, how the twin girls whose DNA reportedly was altered will fare as they grow.

There is wide scientific agreement that rewriting DNA before birth—to prevent an inherited disease or to give a baby some “designer” trait—isn’t yet safe to try outside laboratory experiments that do not lead to human births.

“Grossly premature and deeply unethical,” is how noted U.S. bioethicist Henry Greely of Stanford University characterized the claim.

The researcher, He Jiankui of Shenzhen, said he altered embryos when parents were undergoing fertility treatments to change a gene so that it might provide the resulting babies with a trait few people naturally have—protection against future infection with the AIDS virus.

“This is probably the worst gene you would choose” to test in pregnancy because it doesn’t fix a disease the children were destined to get, said Shoukhrat Mitalipov of the Oregon Health & Science University, who in laboratory-only experiments studies how to repair gene defects in embryos.

“Where is the assurance this mutation now will result in resistance to HIV?” Mitalipov added. “He’s testing his hypothesis on babies.”

Here are questions and answers about Monday’s claim and the state of gene editing:

WHAT IS GENE EDITING?

It’s a technology that lets scientists alter the DNA of living cells—from plants, animals, even humans—more precisely than ever before. It’s like a biological cut-and-paste program: An enzyme that acts like molecular scissors snips a section of a gene, allowing scientists to delete, repair or replace it.

HOW IS IT USED?

Researchers routinely use gene-editing tools in labs to study diseases in cells or animals, and they’re altering crops and food animals for better agriculture.

But in people, gene editing still is highly experimental. One first-in-human study is testing intravenous infusion of gene-editing ingredients to fight a killer metabolic disease. Other researchers are developing ways to gene-edit damaged cells and return them, repaired, into patients with sickle cell disease and other disorders. But unlike Monday’s announcement, none of those experiments would alter DNA in a way that patients would pass to their own children.

WHAT DID THE CHINESE SCIENTIST DO?

The researcher said he used the gene-editing tool CRISPR to alter a gene named CCR5 in embryos for seven couples during their fertility treatments; one pregnancy resulted. A particular mutation in that CCR5 gene is thought to confer some resistance to HIV by making it harder for that virus to enter cells.

Today’s medications have turned HIV from a death sentence into a manageable disease in much of the world, but He said he chose that gene because HIV remains a big problem in China.

But He’s claims have not been verified by outside scientists, and there are questions about how the work was conducted.

WHY IS MONDAY’S NEWS SO CONTROVERSIAL?

Altering genes in sperm, eggs or embryos means those changes can be passed down to future generations—people who would have no way to consent to those changes. Plus, long-term negative effects might not become apparent for years.

In 2017, the U.S. National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine said lab-only research to learn how to alter embryos is ethical—but said it’s not ready for pregnancies yet. The academy said if it is ever allowed, it should be reserved to treat or prevent serious diseases with no good alternatives.

That lab-only research is going on, by Mitalipov and others.

But critics said Monday’s announcement opens the door to “designer babies.”

“If this goes unchallenged, other rogue actors will soon offer wealthy parents purported genetic enhancements for their children,” said Marcy Darnovsky of the Center for Genetics and Society.

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BABIES?

No independent outsiders know yet, which is partly why scientists are so disturbed.

He, the Chinese researcher, said one twin had both copies of the intended gene altered while the other had just one altered. People with one copy of the mutation can still get HIV.

Scientists who reviewed his claims said the alterations aren’t an exact match to natural CCR5 mutations, and that a big question is whether the gene is altered in every cell.

The particular method used is common in lab research but not precise or controlled enough for embryos, said Columbia University cell biologist Dietrich Egli, who called it “essentially genome vandalism.”

WHAT ARE THE DANGERS?

The biggest concern: That precision, or lack of it. Unintended mutations could harm health rather than help it.

IS GENE-EDITING FOR PREGNANCY LEGAL?

Where you live determines if, or what kind of, research can be performed on human embryos. In the U.S., scientists can perform laboratory embryo research only with private funding, not with federal taxpayer money. Any pregnancy attempt would require permission from the Food and Drug Administration, which is currently prohibited by Congress from even reviewing such a request—a de facto ban.

ARE THERE OTHER WAYS TO PREVENT INHERITED DISEASES?

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