It is very important to identify FAS early in life in order to provide the child with the appropriate counseling and guidance as early as possible. But, at this point, there is no treatment or specific and sensitive diagnostic tools to diagnose FAS early in pregnancy or early after birth. Still, the authors say there is ongoing research aimed at devising better diagnostic tools for FAS. These include a panel of genes that are altered in a developing fetus and a kit to examine a newborn's stool for telltale chemicals.
Research is underway to find biomarkers that can inform physicians if a pregnant woman is using, or chronically abusing, alcohol. One marker, for example, can be detected in a woman's bloodstream for at least 28 days after alcohol use. Other researchers are studying biomarkers in amniotic fluid that can distinguish between high-risk and low-risk pregnancies. Still, the authors say there is comparatively little investigation on these ideas.
Prevention of FAS is an important goal primarily because so little is understood about the adverse effects that alcohol has on the developing fetus. Current prevention programs focus on educating potential mothers at risk for conceiving a child with FAS. However, potentially powerful approaches are being studied in animals, such as the use of agents to protect the developing brain early in pregnancy or to treat brain malformations caused by alcohol exposure. Although there is vast research in this area, clinical strategies to reverse the effects of alcohol are not foreseeable in the near future, the authors say.
|Contact: Karen Mallet|
Georgetown University Medical Center