Absolutely fascinating new research which holds the promise of a treatment for babies exposed to alcohol during pregnancy. Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) causes a host of devastating birth defects that impact memory, behavior, and learning in children and adults who were prenatally exposed to alcohol. 1-5% of children born in the US have FASD to some degree. There is no known “cure”. The best approach as of now is to train parents on how to raise children with FASD to minimize the symptoms.

New research on FASD may change that.

Scientists are researching the use of two common drugs that may reverse the brain damage caused by alcohol use during pregnancy. They found that alcohol use during pregnancy reduces thyroxine levels and increases glucose in the mother. They have reason to believe that both these changes are at least in part responsible for the memory and learning issues in the children born to these mothers.

Scientists at Northwest University gave either thyroxine (a hormone that is reduced in pregnant women who drink and in infants with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) or metformin (an insulin sensitizing drug that lowers blood sugar levels, which is higher in alcoholics) to rat pups exposed to alcohol in utero. The pups received the drugs for 10 days immediately after they were born.

Then scientists let the pups grow up and tested their memory compared to control rats also exposed to alcohol in utero but who did not receive either drug.

“We showed in the adult animals that both these treatments reversed the memory deficits as well as some of the molecular changes caused by maternal alcohol consumption,” Redei​, one of the researchers​ said.​

While these studies have only been done on rats and will need to be duplicated in humans, this is an incredibly exciting​ step towards helping children with FASD.

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