Research uncovers causes of fetal alcohol syndrome

By Staff Writer

Drinking during pregnancy is a well-established risk factor for birth defects. Yet researchers have been unable to pinpoint the specific causes of these deficiencies. Now, a new study has found a unique way to examine the causes and effects of fetal alcohol syndrome.

Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco exposed developing fruit fly larva to alcohol and examined the consequences. They found that those given the highest levels of alcohol during development grew significantly slower and had much smaller brains. Additionally, they were more sensitive to the effects of alcohol later in life.

The study showed that these deficiencies were caused by irregular insulin production. Previous investigations have revealed that this hormone plays a critical role in normal fetal development.

The researchers said that their findings have major implications in the debate over how much alcohol consumption is permissible during pregnancy. This has been a hotly contested issue, but the findings may show that limiting drinking during this time may be critically important.

Additionally, the study underscores the need for women who are addicted to alcohol to seek substance abuse help if they become pregnant.