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Pre-conception and early pregnancy iron deficiency harms brain
Date:3/22/2011

This information is very important for clinical care," said Monique Ho, M.D., a collaborator on the study and assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Pediatrics at URMC. "Prenatal care usually involves the recommendation of a multivitamin that contains iron, which is usually prescribed after pregnancy is confirmed or at the first prenatal visit. But not all women have access to prenatal care, and not all women can take the supplements in early pregnancy due to vomiting. This study suggests it might be prudent to begin routine monitoring to detect iron deficiency earlier."

By studying the relationship between maternal iron intake and fetal iron levels through a diet study, the team was able to pin down the critical periods of gestation when the developing central nervous system was most vulnerable. They measured the resulting brain function using a common, non-invasive test called an auditory brainstem response analysis, or ABR.

Co-author Anne Luebke, Ph.D., an associate professor of Biomedical Engineering and Neurobiology & Anatomy at UR, suggested and directed the use of ABR testing, which can detect the speed of information moving from the ear to the brain. Investigators hoped to learn about impairments or changes in myelin, the insulating material that surrounds axons and is required for normal brain function.

"In addition, ABR testing is routinely performed on human infants, and thus our study has an important component that can be translated to a clinical setting," Luebke said.

The most surprising aspect of the research, Mayer-Proschel said, was that the timing of the iron deficiency was much more important than the degree of deficiency. This observation also seems to argue against the common notion that the placenta can minimize the impact of the mother's deficiency on the baby.

"We refer to this as the window of vulnerability," she said, "and it seems to be at a very early stage of development." In pr
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Contact: Leslie Orr
Leslie_Orr@urmc.rochester.edu
585-275-5774
University of Rochester Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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