Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Vitamin may be FASD weapon

Province funds research into possible antidote

  • Print

It's too early to call it a cure, but plain old vitamin A could curb the devastating effects of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

New research by an Israeli scientist suggests vitamin A could act almost like an antidote to the effects of alcohol on very early embryos during the critical development of the head and central nervous system. That's when the worst effects of FASD start.

"Scientifically, this is a very interesting story," said Abraham Fainsod, a professor of genetics and biochemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. "If we can continue our research, we could do some good."

On Monday, the province pledged $750,000 to help set up a joint FASD research consortium between the Hebrew University and the University of Manitoba. Sorting through the vitamin A issue will be among the projects earmarked for funding.

"This has the possibility of being a relatively simple solution," said Geoff Hicks, Fainsod's counterpart at the U of M. "That's why everyone is so excited."

What research Fainsod has done on frogs, Hicks will now try to reproduce using mice, which are the model for mammals.

They'll be looking at retinoic acid, one of the main biological forms of vitamin A and a critical element in cell development and revitalization. That's why so many wrinkle creams tout vitamin A as a key ingredient.

Alcohol prevents the conversion of vitamin A to retinoic acid because both compete for one particular enzyme and the alcohol usually wins. While the body is processing alcohol, it's not making any new retinoic acid, which, in embryos, interrupts the normal development of the head and brain cells.

Fainsod's research suggests adding more vitamin A to the equation -- rebalancing the amount of alcohol and retinoic acid -- can reverse or curb brain defects caused by alcohol.

But Fainsod is quick to say vitamin A can never be seen as a licence to drink while pregnant. Too much vitamin A can cause birth defects that mimic the effects of alcohol. And scientists haven't yet figured out what the correct balance might be.

But vitamin A could one day be added to food like folic acid was added to white flour to reduce birth defects like spina bifida.

Or it could be given to at-risk populations or chronic alcoholics who are unable to quit drinking but who risk having multiple children with FASD.

maryagnes.welch@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 1, 2011 A3

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Paul Maurice addresses media at end of 13/14 season

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant / Winnipeg Free Press.  Local/Weather Standup- Catching rays. Prairie Dog stretches out at Fort Whyte Centre. Fort Whyte has a Prairie Dog enclosure with aprox. 20 dogs young and old. 060607.
  • KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS / Jan 10  2011 ‚Äì WEB STDUP ‚Äì Frosty morning at -15 degrees C , in pic frost covers the the Nellie McClung statue  on the MB Legislature grounds at 7am

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

Do you think Manitoba needs stronger regulations for temporary workers?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google