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Pregnant smokers add to child smoking risk

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HELSINKI, Finland, March 22 (UPI) -- Children born to women who smoked during pregnancy have an increased risk of smoking, due to prenatal nicotine exposure, researchers in Finland and Russia say.

Researchers conducting a joint Finnish-Russian project of the University of Helsinki, the Saint Petersburg Pavlov Medical University in Russia and Shemyakin-Ovchinnikov Institute of Bio-organic Chemistry in Moscow, say their findings support the hypothesis that teens with prenatal nicotine exposure are more likely to start smoking earlier than their peers.

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The researchers examined the receptor-level combined effects of opioids -- morphine and morphine-related compounds -- and nicotine.

Principal investigator Raimo K. Tuominen of the University of Helsinki says receptor is a human protein to which compounds bind and once the receptors are activated, they trigger a number of intracellular signals.

The study used cell lines that express different subtypes of nicotinic receptors -- nicotine attaches to these receptors and activates them.

The findings show morphine and its related compounds, which normally attach to their own receptors, also bind to nicotinic receptors -- causing altered nicotine responses.

The findings are published in the European Journal of Pharmacology.

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