Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researchers discover precisely how thalidomide causes birth defects

Date:
April 19, 2011
Source:
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
Summary:
Thalidomide may have been withdrawn in the early 1960s for use by pregnant women, but its dramatic effects remain memorable half a century later. Now, researchers have taken a major step toward understanding exactly how thalidomide causes the birth defects. This is important as thalidomide is still used to treat diseases like multiple myeloma and leprosy, and is being tested for cancers and autoimmune disorders.

Thalidomide may have been withdrawn in the early 1960s for use by pregnant women, but its dramatic effects remain memorable half a century later. Now, researchers have taken a major step toward understanding exactly how thalidomide causes the birth defects. This is important as thalidomide is still used to treat diseases like multiple myeloma and leprosy, and is being tested for cancers and autoimmune disorders.

Related Articles


The discovery was recently published online in the FASEB Journal.

"The ability of thalidomide breakdown products to cause birth defects complicates our attempts to understand how the birth defects arise and the search for safer alternatives to thalidomide, although the rabbit embryo culture model will facilitate both processes," said Peter G. Wells, Pharm.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada.

Specifically, Wells and colleagues found that birth defects result from not only thalidomide, but also from the compounds that it breaks down to in the body, which last up to 40 times longer in the body than thalidomide itself. These compounds ultimately lead to the production of highly toxic forms of oxygen, called "reactive oxygen species," (ROS) including hydrogen peroxide and free radicals that alter disrupt normal embryonic development, causing birth defects.

To make this discovery, the scientists developed a new animal model for fetal thalidomide exposure by extracting rabbit embryos from pregnant mothers during the first trimester of pregnancy, when the limbs and other structures are developing. Then they cultured the embryos in dishes for one to two days, with or without exposure to thalidomide or one of its breakdown products. Front and hind limb deformities as well as other abnormalities were observed only in the embryos exposed to thalidomide or one of its products. DNA damage caused by ROS and free radicals was similarly increased only in the exposed embryos.

"Administering thalidomide to pregnant women remains was of the biggest mistakes made in modern medicine," said Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal, "Yet we now use thalidomide and related products as effective therapies for serious diseases. This research not only explains what caused all that misery years ago, but promises to help us find safer alternatives to thalidomide in the future."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. C. J. J. Lee, L. L. Goncalves, P. G. Wells. Embryopathic effects of thalidomide and its hydrolysis products in rabbit embryo culture: evidence for a prostaglandin H synthase (PHS)-dependent, reactive oxygen species (ROS)-mediated mechanism. The FASEB Journal, 2011; DOI: 10.1096/fj.10-178814

Cite This Page:

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. "Researchers discover precisely how thalidomide causes birth defects." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110419111503.htm>.
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. (2011, April 19). Researchers discover precisely how thalidomide causes birth defects. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110419111503.htm
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. "Researchers discover precisely how thalidomide causes birth defects." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110419111503.htm (accessed February 28, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Could a $34 Smartphone Device Improve HIV Diagnosis in Africa?

Could a $34 Smartphone Device Improve HIV Diagnosis in Africa?

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Feb. 27, 2015) A dongle that plugs into a Smartphone mimics a lab-based blood test for HIV and syphilis and can detect the diseases in 15 minutes, say researchers. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor Says Head Transplants Possible Within Two Years

Doctor Says Head Transplants Possible Within Two Years

Buzz60 (Feb. 27, 2015) An Italian doctor is saying he could stick someone&apos;s head onto someone else&apos;s body. Patrick Jones (@Patrick_E_Jones) reports. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Your Dentist Could Help Screen You For Diabetes

How Your Dentist Could Help Screen You For Diabetes

Newsy (Feb. 27, 2015) A new study from researchers at New York University suggests dentists could soon use blood samples taken from patients&apos; mouths to test for diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Tips to Makeover Your Health

The Best Tips to Makeover Your Health

Buzz60 (Feb. 27, 2015) If you&apos;re looking to boost your health this season, there are a few quick and easy steps to prompt you for success. Krystin Goodwin (@Krystingoodwin) has the best tips to give your health a makeover this spring! Video provided by Buzz60
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