Choline During Pregnancy May Avoid Central Nervous Disorders Of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Pregnancy and Choline

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) occurs far more frequently than generally believed. Although estimates vary widely, when combined with the milder afflictions of Alcohol Related Birth Defects (ARBD) and several others, the Centers for Disease Control puts the frequency of FAS/ARBD as high as one in 100.

Researchers at Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, showed that by including choline, a U.S.-required ingredient in baby formula, in the pre-natal diet of a rat, that symptoms of prenatal alcohol weren't evident in the young adult animal. At the same time, "we believe we have identified several physiological approaches that could serve as post-natal screening methods to identify babies with possible FAS or related diseases," John Claybaugh, head of the Tripler team said.

In addition, Claybaugh said there is some indication, or at least a possible correlation, that vasopressin could serve some function in cognitive development.

Claybaugh points out that vasopressin, along with the other neurohypophyseal hormone, oxytocin, was discovered over 100 years ago, before it was even known what a hormone was.

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"When most mammal fetuses are developing, the nerves in the brain that make vasopressin become almost fully developed," Claybaugh noted. "We recently published a paper showing that if alcohol is consumed during pregnancy, a rat's developing vasopressin nerves are damaged, and this damage lasts through adulthood because they synthesize less vasopressin in the brain and store less in the pituitary."

Could diabetes insipidus-like symptoms lead to FAS test?

With insufficient vasopressin, the rats drank more water and produced more dilute urine (diuresis) than normal. These are some of the classic symptoms of diabetes insipidus, a disease that also affects humans. Claybaugh's team found that stimuli which normally prompt vasopressin release, such as low fluid volume or high osmotic concentration, were much less effective in animals that had been exposed to pre-natal alcohol feed. With proper guidelines, he believes monitoring infants' urine flow and vasopressin content could serve as future tests for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Claybaugh is presenting his research at the American Physiological Society's 2005 Conference, "Neurohypophyseal Hormones: From Genomics and Physiology to Disease," plus the latest developments toward clinical applications, July 16-20 in Steamboat Springs.

Claybaugh also is participating in the symposium, "Renal actions of NH hormones: pathophysiology," chaired by Jeff Sands, Emory University School Medicine, and Peter Gross, University of Gallen, Switzerland.

"Amelioration of fetal alcohol induced diabetes insipidus by dietary choline during pregnancy in the rat."

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