Baltimore, MD – August 23, 2018 – The Lieber Institute for Brain Development (LIBD) released the results of a study that reveals new insights into the effects of tobacco exposure on the developing brain.

Smoking tobacco during pregnancy is a public health concern, and while the consequences are recognized in early child development, little is known about the effect of smoking during prenatal life. To better understand the underlying molecular biology, researchers performed a genome-wide differential gene expression analysis using RNA sequencing (RNA-seq) on prenatal and adult human postmortem brains. The Lieber Institute’s study is the first to identify at the molecular level that the effects of smoking are stronger in developing brains than in adult brains.

The study, led by researchers at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development, was published August 21 in Molecular Psychiatry, titled: “Developmental effects of maternal smoking during pregnancy on the human frontal cortex transcriptome.” Read the full transcript here:

“This study provides new insights into the role of cigarette smoking on the developing brain and highlights developmentally-important genes that might underlie increased risk for neuropsychiatric and neurodevelopmental disorders later in life” said Andrew Jaffe, Ph.D., Lead Investigator at LIBD.

New clues into the role of smoking and autism
Researchers have previously established a link between in utero exposure to smoking and increased risk for brain disorders like schizophrenia and autism. The results from the Lieber Institute analysis found the effects of prenatal tobacco exposure were strongly enriched for genes that were implicated in autism spectrum disorder. These results highlight the biological effect of smoking exposure in the developing brain, in addition to offering greater insight into how maternal smoking during pregnancy affects gene expression in the prenatal human cortex and may bias towards the development of autism.

About the Lieber Institute for Brain Development
The mission of the Lieber Institute for Brain Development and the Maltz Research Laboratories is to translate the understanding of basic genetic and molecular mechanisms of schizophrenia and related developmental brain disorders into clinical advances that change the lives of affected individuals. LIBD is an independent, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization and a Maryland tax-exempt medical research institute affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Becky Oldham, Marketing & Communications Manager