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New research reinforces danger of drinking alcohol while pregnant
Date:2/14/2014

Women who drink alcohol at moderate or heavy levels in the early stages of their pregnancy might damage the growth and function of their placenta the organ responsible for supplying everything that a developing infant needs until birth - research at The University of Manchester shows.

Placentas studied in a laboratory environment showed that drinking alcohol at moderate (2/3 standard drinks) to high (4-6 standard drinks) rates reduced the cell growth in a woman's placenta.

The research, published in the journal PLoS One and funded by the British Medical Association, investigated the effect of alcohol and its major toxic breakdown product, acetaldehyde, had on the placenta in the first few weeks a period essential for normal development where three primary germ cell layers in the very early infant develop into internal organs. While placental cell growth was reduced at mid and heavy drinking levels, the cells that ensure the placenta attaches to the mother were unaffected. Alcohol at very low concentrations (1-2units, equal to half or one standard drink) did not have any effect on growth or function.

Scientists also found alcohol at moderate to heavy levels reduced the transport of an important amino acid known as taurine - from mother to baby via the placenta. Taurine is vital for brain and physiological development. However, acetaldehyde did not have any effect on the transportation of taurine suggesting alcohol is the main culprit. Reduced taurine has been shown to have negative effects on behaviour and physical development, so this might explain why some neurological symptoms are seen in children of alcoholic mothers, the researchers conclude.

Sylvia Lui, from the Tommy's Maternal and Fetal Health Research Centre based at The University of Manchester who carried out the research, said: "Alcohol and acetaldehyde are known to be toxic at high levels, but these results clearly show that levels easily achieved in a normal popul
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Contact: Alison Barbuti
alison.barbuti@manchester.ac.uk
44-016-127-58383
University of Manchester
Source:Eurekalert

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