Compounds Found to Prevent Alcohol-Related Developmental Damage

A recent study reports two experimental compounds prevent ethanol-induced fetal damage in mice. This data further strengthens scientists' understanding of how alcohol damages fetal development and brings them closer to finding effective interventions against fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS).

Cells that are to become the brain and nervous system cluster and begin forming these organs early in fetal development. Ethanol alcohol (the kind of alcohol found in beverages) prevents these cells from clustering. Octanol and other non-beverage alcohol molecules block ethanol's ability to disrupt this clustering, and thereby prevent fetal damage from ethanol in mouse embryos. The study, undertaken by researchers from Harvard Medical School/Veterans Administration Boston Healthcare System and the National Institute on Child Health and Human Development, was to determine if SAL and NAP -- active peptides from two brain proteins known to protect nerve cells against a variety of toxins -- protect against ethanol in the same way octanol does, by interfering with ethanol's disruption of cell adhesion. It was found that NAP and SAL molecules can prevent ethanol-induced fetal damage in mice. This information provides tools that may assist in the development of drugs to prevent FAS.

FAS, the most preventable cause of mental retardation, affects about 1 in 1,000 U.S. infants and approximately 6 percent of children born to alcoholic women.

The study, Peptide Antagonists of Ethanol Inhibition of L1-Mediated Cell-Cell Adhesion, appeared in the October 2002 issue of the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics. An abstract of the article is available at 303/1/110?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT =&author1=Wilkemeyer%2C+M&searchid=1034778687147_1227& stored_search=&FIRSTINDEX=0&journalcode=jpet

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