Cholesterol supplementation prevents fetal alcohol spectrum defects (FASD) in alcohol-exposed zebrafish embryos according to an article published online in Laboratory Investigation. The study from Yin-Xiong Li and colleagues details the mechanism and prevention of FASD and has implications for potential preventative prenatal intervention.
Each day in the United States, as many as 87 to 103 babies are born with alcohol related defects; annually, an estimated $75 million to $9.7 billion is spent on the care of these infants. The consumption of alcohol during pregnancy places the fetus at risk of developing FASD, which include numerous abnormalities, such as neurological, craniofacial, and cardiac malformations. Using the zebrafish model, the authors found that alcohol interferes with embryonic development by disrupting cholesterol-dependent activation of a critical signaling molecule, called sonic hedgehog. They also showed that cholesterol supplementation of the alcohol-exposed embryos restored the functionality of the molecular pathway and prevented development of FASD-like defects.
In addition, the authors report that FASD-like defects in zebrafish resulted from minimal fetal alcohol exposure, equivalent to a 55-kilogram woman drinking one 12-ounce beer. Their findings suggest that even small amounts of alcohol consumption may be unsafe for pregnant women and also indicate that cholesterol supplementation may be a potential means to prevent FASD.
Yin-Xiong Li (Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, USA)
Abstract available online.
(C) Laboratory Investigation press release.
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