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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Gene Variation

Fetal alcohol syndrome affects countless people whose mothers consumed alcohol while pregnant, but, according to new research it does not affect everyone whose mothers drank when they were pregnant. A new study done by Northwestern Medicine may have found out why some babies are affected and some are not. It has to do with a gene variation passed on by the mother to her son; the gene variation contributes to a fetus' vulnerability to even the slightest amount of alcohol, by upsetting the balance of thyroid hormones in the brain. The findings open up the possibility of using dietary supplements that have the potential to reverse or fix the dosage of the thyroid hormones in the brain to correct the problems caused by the alcohol exposure," said Eva E. Redei, senior author of the study and the David Lawrence Stein Professor of Psychiatry at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.

"In the not-too-distant future we could identify a woman's vulnerability to alcohol if she is pregnant and target this enzyme imbalance with drugs, a supplement or another method that will increase the production of this enzyme in the hippocampus, which is where it's needed," Redei said. This study has powerful implications and may be able to rid our planet of the terrible disorder known as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Science may one day have the power to counter a mother's neglect and disregard for the fetus growing inside of her.

Educating women about the >dangers of drinking while pregnant has done very little to stop FASD which is why it is so crucial that scientists figure out a way to give a fetus a fighting chance at living a normal life, one free of defects caused by alcohol in the womb. The Northwestern Medicine study with rats is the first time researchers have been able to identify a direct genetic mechanism of behavioral deficits caused by fetal alcohol exposure. "The identification of this novel mechanism will stimulate more research on other genes that also influence alcohol-related disorders, especially in females," said Laura Sittig, the lead author of the study and a graduate student in Redei's lab.

The study is published today in the FASEB Journal.

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