Paige Lawrence, who runs a lab in the environmental medicine department at the University of Rochester, said the results of the study, published this month in the journal iScience, could help explain why some people are more vulnerable to the flu than others.
The project started with mice.
“We got mice, we let them get pregnant, and while they were pregnant, we exposed them to very teeny tiny amounts of dioxins -- one part per billion,” Lawrence said.
Dioxins are a type of pollution that is toxic to both people and mice. Their negative effects on immune systems are well-documented.
What has been less clear is whether those effects can be inherited.
To study that connection, the researchers also had a set of mice that they did not expose to dioxins. They tracked both groups for three generations -- until they had what Lawrence called, “the mouse equivalent of great-grandchildren.”