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Advances in Diagnosis and Treatment of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: From Animal Models to Human Studies

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy can interfere with both embryonic and fetal development, producing a wide range of outcomes that fall under the rubric of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). FASD is the nondiagnostic umbrella term used to refer to the full range of effects that can occur following prenatal alcohol exposure. Such exposure can produce a variety of effects, including...

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: Awareness to Insight in Just 50 Years

Introduction

The establishment of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) in 1971 was bracketed by three seminal papers that laid the groundwork for the field of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) research. In 1968, Lemoine et al.1 described children with birth defects and neurodevelopmental disorders associated with prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE). This French...

Utilization of Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Research Involving Animal Models of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Neuroimaging, particularly magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), has begun to tease apart the underlying mechanisms behind alcohol’s deleterious effects on the fetus and eventually may lead to earlier detection of what can be devastating child neurodevelopmental deficits. In 1968, researchers first reported an association between prenatal alcohol exposure and what can be persistent adverse cognitive...

In Utero Alcohol Exposure, Epigenetic Changes, and Their Consequences

Alcohol exposure of the developing embryo and fetus in utero can have a wide range of detrimental effects collectively referred to as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). Researchers are intensively investigating the mechanisms that may contribute to alcohol’s effects on the developing organism and to the resulting consequences, particularly with respect to the cognitive and behavioral...

Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and Cellular Differentiation: A Role for Polycomb and Trithorax Group Proteins in FAS Phenotypes?

Exposure of the developing embryo and fetus to alcohol can have profound adverse effects on physical, behavioral, and cognitive development. The resulting deficits collectively have been termed fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). They range in severity from mild cognitive deficits to a well-defined syndrome (i.e., fetal alcohol syndrome [FAS]), which is broadly characterized by low birth...

Dysregulation of microRNA Expression and Function Contributes to the Etiology of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are members of a vast, evolutionarily ancient, but poorly understood class of regulatory RNA molecules, termed non–protein-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). This means that in contrast to RNA molecules generated during gene expression (i.e., messenger RNA [mRNA] molecules), they are not used as templates for the synthesis of proteins. ncRNAs are encoded within the genomes of both eukaryotic...

Translating Alcohol Research Into Practice - Editor's Note

Translational research helps move basic science and clinical laboratory discoveries toward application in health and medicine. Through controlled experiments, basic scientists use animal models to reproduce disease characteristics caused by an agent—in this case, excessively high exposure to alcohol. Through systematic study and observation, clinical research scientists identify symptomatic and...

Maternal Substance Use: Consequences, Identification, and Interventions

Alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis are the substances most frequently used during pregnancy, and opioid-exposed pregnancies have increased fourfold. The purpose of this review is to describe the prevalence and consequences of prenatal exposure to alcohol, tobacco, cannabis, and opioids. Currently available screening questionnaires for prenatal substance use are summarized and contrasted with the...

Development, Prevention, and Treatment of Alcohol-Induced Organ Injury: The Role of Nutrition

Alcohol and nutrition have the potential to interact at multiple levels. For example, heavy alcohol consumption can interfere with normal nutrition, resulting in overall malnutrition or in deficiencies of important micronutrients, such as zinc, by reducing their absorption or increasing their loss. Interactions between alcohol consumption and nutrition also can affect epigenetic regulation of gene...

Epigenetics—New Frontier for Alcohol Research - Editor's Note

The term “epigenetics” is rapidly becoming one of the more important watchwords in the field of alcohol research. Put simply, epigenetics is the study of changes in gene function that occur without a change in the body’s genetic code, instead relying on epigenetic markers on, among others, the DNA and certain nuclear proteins to turn genes “on” and “off.” Epigenetic changes also are brought about...