Developmental Biology - Alcohol in Pregnancy|
Even Moderate Drinking Alters Newborn Genes
Rutgers-led research could lead to tests for prenatal exposure to alcohol and related health issues...
Mothers who drink moderate to high levels of alcohol during pregnancy may be changing their babies' DNA, according to a Rutgers-led study.
"Our findings may make it easier to test children for prenatal alcohol exposure - and enable early diagnosis and intervention that can help improve the children's lives," said lead author Dipak K. Sarkar, a Distinguished Professor and director of the Endocrine Program in the Department of Animal Sciences at Rutgers University-New Brunswick.
The study by Sarkar and scientists in a Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders is in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
Building on an earlier Rutgers-led study that found binge and heavy drinking may trigger long-lasting genetic change in adults, the researchers sought alcohol-induced DNA changes in 30 pregnant women and 359 children.
They found changes to two genes - POMC, which regulates the stress-response system and PER2, which influences the body's biological clock - in women who drank moderate to high levels of alcohol during pregnancy and in children who had been exposed to those levels in the womb.
Heavy drinking in women is four or more drinks at least five times a month. Moderate drinking in women is about three drinks per occasion.
"Our research may help scientists identify biomarkers - measurable indicators such as altered genes or proteins - that predict the risks from prenatal alcohol exposure," Sarkar said.
Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders can include physical or intellectual disabilities as well as behavioral and learning problems. While there is no cure, early intervention treatment services can improve a child's development, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says there is no known safe amount of alcohol to drink while pregnant.
The study also found that infants exposed to alcohol in the womb - which passes from the mother's blood through the umbilical cord - had increased levels of cortisol, a potentially harmful stress hormone that can suppress the immune system and lead to ongoing health issues.
Current knowledge on limbs development lacks a physical description of the forces leading to formation of the limbs precursors or “buds”. Earlier stages of development are driven by large scale morphogenetic movements, such as dipolar vortical flows and mechanical buckling, pulled by rings of cells. It is a natural hypothesis that similar phenomena occur during limb formation. However it is difficult to experiment on the developmental forces, in such a complex dynamic system. Here, we report a physical study of hindlimb bud formation in the chicken embryo. We use electrical stimulation to enhance the physical forces present in the tissue, prior to limb bud formation. By triggering the physical forces in a rapid and amplified pattern, we reveal the mechanism of formation of the hindlimbs: the early presumptive embryonic territory is composed of a set of rings encased like Russian dolls. Each ring constricts in an excitable pattern of force, and the limb buds are generated by folding at a pre-existing boundary between two rings, forming the dorsal and ventral ectoderms. The amniotic sac buckles at another boundary. Physiologically, the actuator of the excitable force is the tail bud pushing posteriorly along the median axis. The developmental dynamics suggests how animals may evolve by modification of the magnitude of these forces, within a common broken symmetry. On a practical level, localized electrical stimulation of morphogenetic forces opens the way to in vivo electrical engineering of tissues.
Vincent Fleury and Ameya Vaishnavi Murukutla.
The authors report no conflict of interest.
This study was supported by grant funds from AMAG Pharmaceuticals (to R.M.).
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Sep 5 2019 Fetal Timeline Maternal Timeline News
Researchers looked for alcohol-induced DNA changes in pregnant women and their children.
They found changes to two genes - POMC
which regulates the stress-response system, andPER2
which influences the body's biological clock - in women who drank moderate to high
levels of alcohol during pregnancy and in children who had been exposed to those levels
of alcohol in the womb. CREDIT Syani Mukherjee/Rutgers University-New Brunswick.