Common drug 'protects foetuses from alcohol'
22 February 2006 00:00 in Industry related health news
A commonly used drug in patients with autoimmune diseases could provide the key to treating foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), according to new research.
No effective treatment for the syndrome currently exists and large numbers of babies are born with FAS following exposure to alcohol in the womb.
However, after conducting tests on mice, researchers Alessandro Ieraci and Daniel Herrera, from Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, found that nicotinamide, usually used to treat patients with autoimmune diseases, helped to protect the unborn babies against alcohol damage.
The research team injected newborn mice shortly after birth with alcohol.
The study found that the exposure to alcohol, similar to a one-off incident of excessive drinking by a pregnant mother, caused the death of brain cells in the mouse pups, as well as a range of behavioural abnormalities in adulthood.
Using nicotinamide, the scientists followed the injection of alcohol with a second injection of the drug two hours later. They found that "the number of brain cells that died was no greater than during normal brain development" and the mice did not demonstrate any behavioural abnormalities as adults.
A weaker effect against brain cell death was also witnessed when nicotinamide was administered up to eight hours after recently born mice were exposed to alcohol, according to the study in the journal PloS Medicine.
The researchers concluded that while the best way to protect against FAS was to abstain from alcohol completely during pregnancy, the findings could nevertheless help to minimise the effects of the condition.
"The emphasis in FAS prevention must obviously remain on helping pregnant women (and women who might become pregnant) to quit drinking alcohol," the study said.
"However, it is worth pursuing nicotinamide as a possible treatment for preventing FAS in situations where a pregnant woman is unable to stop drinking entirely."© Adfero Ltd
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