New research has said that the dietary supplement CDP-choline may prevent skull and brain damage resulting from alcohol consumption early in pregnancy. The supplement acts as a brain-boosting agent and is under study for stroke and traumatic brain injury.
Dr. Erhard Bieberich, biochemist in the MCG Schools of Graduate Studies and Medicine, reported that during pregnancy, alcohol consumption increases levels of a lipid called ceramide - which can harm brain and skull development.
Resulting neural crest damage the formation process of the brain.
"There is just a little window," Bieberich said, about four weeks after conception when neural crest cells emerge for a few days before morphing into other cell types that help form numerous organs.
MCG researchers found high levels of ceramide both in mouse cells and pregnant mice exposed to alcohol along with a five-fold increase in apoptotic, or dying cells. "There is a clear correlation," he said.
They also found that during the critical period, there were defects in the fibrous joints that connect the skull.
Alcohol prompts the body to produce more ceramide from the brain lipid sphingomyelin, a major component of cell membranes. They found that CDP-choline pushes back toward producing less ceramide, preventing damage providing the drinking stops.
"Ceramide can be bad or good," notes Bieberich, who has shown, for example, ceramide's role in helping early stem cells evolve into embryonic tissue - as long as the alcohol consumption stops.
"Hopefully we can rescue some of the cells by triggering or signaling the back reaction," Bieberich said.
He also wants to see if CDP-choline affords the same protection in pregnant mice that it does in laboratory cells.
The report appears in Cell Death and Disease.