Navigation Links
Figuring out fetal alcohol syndrome in fruit flies

Drinking excess alcohol during pregnancy can cause fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) due to the damaging effects of alcohol on a developing baby's brain. Despite its harmful effects, pregnant mothers continue to drink alcohol up to 3 in every 1000 babies are born with FAS, which causes intellectual disabilities, behavioural problems, growth defects and abnormal facial features. How alcohol causes these effects is unclear, but researching the problem is difficult because of ethical barriers to studying human fetuses. Ulrike Heberlein and colleagues from the University of California San Francisco decided to study FAS using the fruit fly, a commonly used organism in biological research. Their results establish a new system for studying how alcohol causes harmful effects during development and open the door to further genetic and molecular studies of FAS. Heberlein and colleagues publish their results in Disease Models & Mechanisms on February 8, 2011 at

When Heberlein and colleagues exposed fruit flies to alcohol during development, they found that the flies grew more slowly, had smaller brains, abnormal behaviour and were more sensitive to the effects of alcohol as adults. They also confirmed previous findings that the problems were caused in part because alcohol interferes with the function of insulin a molecule essential for normal fetal development in the developing brain. Heberlein commented, "It was pretty surprising that so many features of FAS were recapitulated in this model, including some of the molecular mechanisms."

The issue of how much alcohol, if any, a pregnant woman can safely drink and during which trimester has been hotly debated. As expected, Heberlein and colleagues found that greater amounts of alcohol had more severe effects on fly development and behaviour. More surprisingly, they found that exposure to alcohol later during a fly's development was more harmful than at early stages. Fruit flies are only distantly related to humans, so it is not yet possible to draw direct parallels between this study and the effects of alcohol on human pregnancy. Heberlein says, "We can't truly draw analogies before we know exactly which biological processes are being affected at these different stages of development. But it's very clear that exposure to alcohol early, during a rapid phase of growth, has different effects than later, when the brain is getting put together."

An important aspect of this new model system is that fruit flies provide a research advantage that is not available in humans they can be used to very rapidly find the genes that might increase FAS risk. Heberlein and colleagues are undertaking this task now: their hope is that by studying FAS at the genetic level using fruit flies, they can generate results that will guide FAS research in humans and facilitate a more targeted approach to developing new therapies.

This study establishes the fruit fly as a model to study FAS that can be used to find genes and environmental factors that could influence FAS severity in humans. Combined with complementary approaches and follow-up studies in humans, the fruit fly will be a valuable tool for identifying drug candidates that could prevent or treat FAS in at-risk fetuses.


Contact: Sarah Allan
The Company of Biologists

Related medicine news :

1. Ultrasensitive detector pinpoints big problem in tiny fetal heart
2. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder linked to high prevalence of epilepsy, Queens study
3. Study finds changes in fetal epigenetics throughout pregnancy
4. Hurricanes Linked to Raised Fetal Distress Risk
5. AIUM announces ultrasound practice accreditation in fetal echocardiography
6. Energy Drinks, Alcohol a Dangerous Mix
7. Rhode Island Settlement Reflects Homeowner Liability for Serving Alcohol to Those Under 21, Says Providence Lawyer Mark Gemma
8. Cluster of Genes Tied to Alcoholism
9. Blacks Less Likely to Abuse Alcohol
10. Alcohol Influences How Memorable Trauma Might Be
11. Alcoholics Relapses Better Understood
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... "FCPX editors can now reveal ... Final Cut Pro X," said Christina Austin - CEO of Pixel Film Studios. ... Cut Pro X users can now reveal the media of their split screens ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... ePAY ... partnership with Connance, a healthcare industry leader providing predictive analytics to optimize ... combine to provide health systems, hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers with dramatic ...
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... June 27, 2016 , ... recently awarded their highest five-star rating ... Millions of individuals in the United States and Canada wear eyeglasses. Once considered to ... correct vision and make a fashion statement. Even celebrities use glasses as a way ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... June 26, 2016 , ... On June 10-11, 2016, ... the 2016 Cereal Festival and World’s Longest Breakfast Table in Battle Creek, MI, where ... city’s history as home to some of the world’s leading providers of cereal and ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... ... PawPaws brand pet supplements owned by Whole Health Supply is ... of felines. The formula is all-natural and is made from Chinese herbs that have ... Kidney Support Supplement Soft Chews are Astragalus Root Extract and Rehmannia Root Extract ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... Research and Markets has announced the addition of the ... to their offering. ... World Market for Companion Diagnostics covers the world market for ... report includes the following: , World IVD ... (N. America, EU, ROW), 2015-2020 , World IVD Companion ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... , June 24, 2016   Pulmatrix, Inc ... company developing innovative inhaled drugs, announced today that it ... Russell Investments reconstituted its comprehensive set of U.S. ... "This is an important milestone for Pulmatrix," said ... increase shareholder awareness of our progress in developing drugs ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... 24, 2016  Arkis BioSciences, a leading innovator ... more durable cerebrospinal fluid treatments, today announced it ... funding is led by Innova Memphis, followed by ... private investors.  Arkis, new financing will accelerate the ... market release of its in-licensed Endexo® technology. ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: