Project/blog link:Prenatal Nicotine Exposure BASIS Advisor: Eric Fetkenhour Internship location: Department of Health Sciences, University of Arizona Onsite Mentor: Scott Boitano, PhD, Associate Research Scientist, Professor
When women become pregnant, the CDC highly recommends that they quit smoking. Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to variety of birth defects that can affect a child for the rest of his or her life. The major component of cigarettes that causes addiction is nicotine, so to get women to stop smoking during pregnancy doctors will recommend that they switch to nicotine gum or nicotine patches. These options are known to be far more safe for the child than smoking cigarettes. The researchers that I’m working with in the Department of Health Sciences at the University of Arizona are attempting to determine how prenatal nicotine exposure affects a child after birth. By exposing pregnant rats to a concentration of nicotine that is deemed normal for an average daily smoker, then removing the neonatal rats once they are close to being fully grown, I can examine how the tracheas of the neonatal rats respond to the addition of acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that is vital in the process of maintaining a stable environment in the pulmonary system. The response to the acetylcholine is measured by a percent change in the internal short circuit current which is a reliable indicator of the response of the cells being exposed to the acetylcholine. The purpose of this research is to determine if nicotine exposure through methods other than traditional cigarettes can harm the development of the airway epithelium of the child.