Chemicals found in cigarette smoke have been shown to damage fetal liver organ cells.

Scientists say the particular potent cocktail of chemicals in cigarettes is particularly damaging to developing liver cells and affects male and women fetuses differently.

Researchers — led with the University of Edinburgh — have developed a novel method to study the effects of maternal smoking on liver tissue making use of embryonic stem cells.

The stem cellular technique will provide important information about the long-term effects of maternal smoking cigarettes, say experts.

The liver is vital within clearing toxic substances and plays a major role within regulating metabolism. Smoking cigarettes — which contain around 7000 chemical substances — can damage fetal organs and may do lasting damage.

Scientists used pluripotent stem cells — non-specialised cells that have the distinctive ability to be able to change into other cell types — to build fetal liver organ tissue.

Liver cells were exposed to dangerous chemicals found in cigarettes, including specific substances known to move in fetuses when mothers smoke.

The research showed that a chemical cocktail — similar to that present in cigarettes — harmed fetal liver health more than person components.

Findings also showed that cig chemicals damage the liver differently in male plus female fetuses, with male tissue showing liver skin damage and female tissue showing more damage to cell metabolic process.

The study was carried out in collaboration with all the Universities of Aberdeen and Glasgow and is published within the journal Archives of Toxicology .

Dr David Hay from the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Regenerative Medicine, said: “Cigarette smoke is recognized to have damaging effects on the fetus, yet we absence appropriate tools to study this in a very detailed way. This particular new approach means that we now have sources of renewable tissue which will enable us to understand the cellular effect of cigarettes around the unborn fetus. ”

Professor Paul Fowler, Director of the Institute of Medical Sciences at the College of Aberdeen, said: “This work is part of a continuous project to understand how cigarette smoking by pregnant mothers offers harmful effects on the developing fetus. These findings reveal fundamental differences in damage between male and female fetuses. ”

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