Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Alcohol Consumption Can Cause Too Much Cell Death, Fetal Abnormalities

Date:
August 26, 2008
Source:
Medical College of Georgia
Summary:
The initial signs of fetal alcohol syndrome are slight but classic: facial malformations such as a flat and high upper lip, small eye openings and a short nose. Researchers want to know if those facial clues can help them figure out how much alcohol it takes during what point in development to cause these and other lifelong problems.

Dr. Erhard Bieberich, biochemist in the Medical College of Georgia Schools of Medicine and Graduate Studies.
Credit: Image courtesy of Medical College of Georgia

The initial signs of fetal alcohol syndrome are slight but classic: facial malformations such as a flat and high upper lip, small eye openings and a short nose.

Related Articles


Researchers want to know if those facial clues can help them figure out how much alcohol it takes during what point in development to cause these and other lifelong problems.

They have good evidence that just a few glasses of wine over an hour in the first few weeks of fetal life, typically before a woman knows she's pregnant, increases cell death. Too few cells are then left to properly form the face and possibly the brain and spinal cord.

"It’s well known that when you drink, you get a buzz. But a couple of hours later, that initial impact, at least, is gone," says Dr. Erhard Bieberich, biochemist in the Medical College of Georgia Schools of Medicine and Graduate Studies. "But, your fetus may have experienced irreversible damage."

He thinks the damage results from the death of neural crest cells, versatile cells that travel a lot during development, ultimately helping form bone, cartilage, connective tissue, the heart and more. These cells are developing at the same time as neural tube cells that form the brain and spinal cord. Consequently, the telltale facial abnormalities in a newborn also may foretell problems with learning, memory, vision, hearing and more.

Some cells need to die during development. "There is always a very delicate balance between newly formed cells and dying cells," says Dr. Bieberich. "It's a very active period of that balance, because usually you develop a surplus of tissue then later melt it back down to acquire a specific shape." He likes to use the hands as an example of critical melting. "The digits form because the inter-digital tissue dies. If it did not die, we would have paddles instead of hands with fingers."

Cell death likely results from alcohol disturbing the metabolism of the lipids that help the hollow wad of stem cells that forms in the first day of life find direction and purpose, he says. 

A grant from the March of Dimes, whose mission is to prevent birth defects and infant mortality, is enabling him to compare cell loss in mice following different levels of alcohol consumption to the usual loss that occurs in development.

His focus is these neural crest cells, which help form the upper part of the skull. Some neural crest cells stay in the brain and, early on, these cells share growth factors with neural tube cells. Cognitive and other brain damage is hard to quantify this early, but mice missing the neural crest gene also experience problems with skull and brain development.

Ideally his measurements will give women a better idea of the risk of alcohol consumption and point toward a way to reduce the damage. "You have to make people aware of the science behind the risk," Dr. Bieberich says. "We are not saying that every pregnant woman who drinks three or four glasses of wine in a short period will have a baby with birth defects, but it elevates the risk."

Fetal alcohol syndrome affects about 1 in 1,000 babies, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The CDC recommends that pregnant women and sexually active women not using effective birth control refrain from drinking.

Dr. Bieberich's collaborators include, Dr. Guanghu Wang, research assistant scientist; Kannan Krishnamurthy, fifth-year graduate student; and Dr. Somsankar Dasgupta, senior research scientist.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Medical College of Georgia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Medical College of Georgia. "Alcohol Consumption Can Cause Too Much Cell Death, Fetal Abnormalities." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 August 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080825103531.htm>.
Medical College of Georgia. (2008, August 26). Alcohol Consumption Can Cause Too Much Cell Death, Fetal Abnormalities. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080825103531.htm
Medical College of Georgia. "Alcohol Consumption Can Cause Too Much Cell Death, Fetal Abnormalities." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/08/080825103531.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

Kids Die While Under Protective Services

AP (Dec. 18, 2014) — As part of a six-month investigation of child maltreatment deaths, the AP found that hundreds of deaths from horrific abuse and neglect could have been prevented. AP's Haven Daley reports. (Dec. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dads-To-Be Also Experience Hormone Changes During Pregnancy

Dads-To-Be Also Experience Hormone Changes During Pregnancy

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) — A study from University of Michigan researchers found that expectant fathers see a decrease in testosterone as the baby's birth draws near. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Prenatal Exposure To Pollution Might Increase Autism Risk

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) — Harvard researchers found children whose mothers were exposed to high pollution levels in the third trimester were twice as likely to develop autism. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

UN: Up to One Million Facing Hunger in Ebola-Hit Countries

AFP (Dec. 17, 2014) — Border closures, quarantines and crop losses in West African nations battling the Ebola virus could lead to as many as one million people going hungry, UN food agencies said on Wednesday. Duration: 00:52 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins