Nearly 2 million women in the United States alone are at risk for an alcohol-exposed pregnancy, including more than 600,000 who binge drink. Even low levels of prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) can lead to a variety of birth defects, including craniofacial and neurodevelopmental defects, as well as increased risk of miscarriages and stillbirths. Studies have also shown an interaction between drinking while pregnant and an increase in congenital heart defects (CHD), including atrioventricular septal defects and other malformations. We have previously established a quail model of PAE, modeling a single binge drinking episode in the third week of a woman’s pregnancy. Using optical coherence tomography (OCT), we quantified intraventricular septum thickness, great vessel diameters, and atrioventricular valve volumes. Early-stage ethanol-exposed embryos had smaller cardiac cushions (valve precursors) and increased retrograde flow, while late-stage embryos presented with gross head/body defects, and exhibited smaller atrio-ventricular (AV) valves, interventricular septum, and aortic vessels. We previously showed that supplementation with the methyl donor betaine reduced gross defects, improved survival rates, and prevented cardiac defects. Here we show that these preventative effects are also observed with folate (another methyl donor) supplementation. Folate also appears to normalize retrograde flow levels which are elevated by ethanol exposure. Finally, preliminary findings have shown that glutathione, a crucial antioxidant, is noticeably effective at improving survival rates and minimizing gross defects in ethanol-exposed embryos. Current investigations will examine the impact of glutathione supplementation on PAE-related CHDs.
Megan M. Sheehan, Ganga Karunamuni, Cameron J. Pedersen, Shi Gu, Yong Qiu Doughman, Michael W. Jenkins, Michiko Watanabe, and Andrew M. Rollins, "Prevention of congenital defects induced by prenatal alcohol exposure (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 10053, Optical Coherence Tomography and Coherence Domain Optical Methods in Biomedicine XXI, 100530S (Presented at SPIE BiOS: January 31, 2017; Published: 19 April 2017); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2254932.5371723142001.
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