By Alison Kershaw
A NEW drug could hold the key to reversing the effects suffered by foetuses who are exposed to alcohol during pregnancy.
Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) affects large numbers of babies born to women who drink while pregnant. At present there are no effective treatments that can prevent or reverse the affects of FAS after a foetus has been exposed.
But, according to PLoS Medicine, a journal published by the Public Library of Science, researchers are using mice to show that nicotinamide, a drug used in patients with autoimmune diseases could protect against alcohol exposure.
Researchers injected mice with alcohol shortly after birth, and found the dose - which was comparable to that of a human foetus after one bout of excessive drinking by its mother - caused the death of brain cells as well some behavioural abnormalities after the mice had grown to adulthood.
When researchers followed with an injection of nicotinamide two hours later, the number of cells that died was no greater than in normal brain development, and there were no behavioural abnormalities.
PLoS Medicine said these were "early-stage experiments" and "much more work" was needed before it became clear whether the treatment would work in humans. However, the results suggested nicotinamide "might prevent some alcohol damage".