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Little is understood about alcohol's effect on fetal development, Georgetown researchers say
Date:6/15/2010

Washington, DC It's long been known that alcohol use in pregnancy can lead to children with mental retardation and birth defects, but researchers who study fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) have not made definitive progress on preventing the disorder, detecting it early, or effectively treating it, say researchers from Georgetown University Medical Center.

In the issue of Developmental Neuroscience, four first-year medical students at Georgetown University School of Medicine looked into the science and clinical treatment of FAS, and found that although there is much ongoing study, no new medical strategies exist to change the grim outcome that can occur when a fetus is exposed to alcohol.

"Although there is a lot of research in the field to determine how alcohol acts on the developing brain, there is not much translation into the clinic," says Sahar Ismail, now a second year medical student. "What surprised us the most was the lack of sensitive and specific diagnostic tools to identify children with FAS, given its prevalence and harmful effects on the child, family, and society."

Working with her on the study were medical students Stephanie Buckley, Ross Budacki, and Ahmad Jabbar each student contributed equally. Their study was a project for the Sexual Development and Reproduction Module under directorship of G. Ian Gallicano, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular & Cellular Biology.

"This is a very important review, because it combed the research literature on FAS, and concluded that nothing has changed clinically," Gallicano says. "Not every woman who drinks alcohol will have a child with FAS, but because so much remains unknown, women are still advised not to drink any time during pregnancy."

Even the question of whether alcohol is a teratogen (a chemical that causes nervous system abnormalities) in the first days or weeks of pregnancy when a woman may not know sh
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Contact: Karen Mallet
km463@georgetown.edu
215-514-9751
Georgetown University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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