New research shows about half of the population carries a gene that puts them at risk for passing on neural tube defects like spina bifida to their offspring. Researchers say they already know one form of the gene responsible for processing folate in the body is linked to neural tube defects. They speculated another form of the gene might also be associated with the birth defects.
Researchers studied about 400 people with neural tube defects, comparing their folate-processing genes with those of about 850 people without neural tube defects. Results showed that about 10 percent of people carry the first form the gene, called the "TT" variation. Nearly 40 percent carry the second form, called "CT."People who have the variant forms of the gene are not able to process folate as easily as those with the normal form, called "wild CC." The inability to process folate leads to spinal cord problems in the developing fetus. Correcting the problem, however, is easily accomplished by folic acid supplementation.
Thus researchers say these results reinforce the importance of supplementing the diets of all women of childbearing age with folic acid.