About My Health Careers Internship MedBlogs Contact us
Medindia LOGIN REGISTER
Advertisement

Heart Defects in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome may be Caused by Altered Function

by Kathy Jones on December 31, 2013 at 8:01 PM
Font : A-A+

 Heart Defects in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome may be Caused by Altered Function

More than 500,000 women in the U.S. report drinking during pregnancy, with about 20 percent of this population admitting to binge drinking, according to recent data.

Even one episode of heavy drinking can lead to the collection of birth defects known as fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). Along with growth retardation, head and face abnormalities, and neurological problems, FAS also causes heart problems in just over half of those with this condition. Though much research has focused on looking for the cause of these alcohol-induced heart defects, they remain largely a mystery.

Advertisement

To investigate this question, Ganga Karunamuni of Case Western University and her colleagues studied heart formation in quail embryos, whose heart development is very similar to that of humans. The researchers used an innovative imaging technique, optical coherence tomography, to compare embryos exposed to a single, large dose of alcohol to those who hadn't received alcohol. They looked both at how alcohol changed the function of the developing hearts as well as their structure. They found that significant changes in heart function appeared to come well before changes in structure that are hallmarks of the well-known FAS heart anomalies. These changes in function, the study authors suggest, might be the cause of the structural problems that arise later by exerting forces on the heart that change its development.

The article is entitled "Ethanol Exposure Alters Early Cardiac Function in the Looping Heart: A Mechanism for Congenital Heart Defects?" It appears in the Articles in Press section of the American Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology, published by the American Physiological Society.
Advertisement

MethodologyThe researchers studied three sets of quail embryos. In one set of these embryos, the researchers injected a quantity of alcohol into their shells proportional to the amount that would be considered a single episode of binge drinking in a pregnant woman. They purposely chose a time during early development in which embryos are especially vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. In another set of embryos, the researchers injected their shells with saline, a placebo not known to have any harmful effects. The researchers left a third set of embryos to develop without any interventions.

Using an imaging modality called optical coherence tomography, which gives the ability to peer through layers of tissue, the researchers kept an eye on the developing hearts at a particular stage when the primitive heart switches from a tube shape to a loop-shaped circuit. The researchers compared both heart blood flow and anatomy at this stage between the three different sets of embryos. They also compared heart anatomy between the different sets both at this looping stage and at a stage closer to hatching.

ResultsAs expected, the researchers found that the hearts of embryos exposed to alcohol had dramatic defects close to hatching, including thinner walls separating the heart's four chambers and damaged valves. Long before these defects formed, the researchers saw significant differences in heart blood flow between embryos that weren't exposed to alcohol and those that were. In those whose shells weren't injected with alcohol, a small portion of the blood flowed backward through the heart circuit after each beat. In those exposed to alcohol, a much larger portion of blood flowed backward in the circuit. These malfunctioning hearts had smaller "cardiac cushions"—collections of cells that later become chamber walls and valves—compared to unexposed hearts.

Importance of the FindingsThe authors suggest that this improper function may itself steer developing hearts in the wrong direction during development, setting the stage for larger defects to arise. Previous studies have shown that because cells in the heart and elsewhere are responsive to mechanical forces, those forces exerted by blood flow can affect heart formation. By learning more about these functional changes in the early heart, the researchers suggest that it may eventually be possible to redirect blood flow to a more healthful pattern, thereby rescuing FAS hearts before they form defects.

"With an average of 4 million U.S. pregnancies per year, there will be approximately 10,000 cases of alcohol-induced congenital heart defects," the study authors write. "Continued study of the mechanisms involved in the development of alcohol-induced cardiac birth defects is warranted in order to implement effective treatments and/or prevention strategies."



Source: Eurekalert
Advertisement

Advertisement
News A-Z
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
News Category
What's New on Medindia
Printed Temperature Sensors help with Continuous Temperature Monitoring
Health Benefits of Giloy
Breast Cancer Awareness Month 2021 - It's time to RISE
View all

Medindia Newsletters Subscribe to our Free Newsletters!
Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.

More News on:
Alcoholic Liver Disease Alcoholism Cannabis Drug Abuse Alcohol and Driving Bubbles and Brews - Alcohol Facts Congenital Heart Disease Heart Healthy Heart Pancreatitis 

Recommended Reading
Drugs in Pregnancy and Lactation
During pregnancy & lactation a nutritious diet, suitable exercise, adequate rest and a tranquil ......
Anemia in Pregnancy
Anemia is the commonest blood disorder that may occur in pregnancy and is usually due to low iron .....
Air travel: To fly or not to fly
Air travel is for everyone, even those with medical conditions....
AIDS and Pregnancy
The Acquired immune deficiency syndrome is brought about by the deadly human immunodeficiency ......
Alcohol and Driving
Alcohol and driving do not mix. Drunken driving is the cause of many deaths in the world....
Alcoholic Liver Disease
Encyclopedia section of medindia gives general information about Alcoholic Liver Disease....
Alcoholism
Alcohol use disorder or alcoholism is an inability to control drinking. It can cause short term and ...
Bubbles and Brews - Alcohol Facts
There is more to alcohol than mere intoxication. Infamous because of its social abuse but indispensa...
Cannabis
Cannabis has a long history of medicinal, recreational, and industrial use and comes from a bushy pl...
Congenital Heart Disease
Heart diseases that are present at birth are called “ Congenital heart diseases”....
Drug Abuse
The use of Drugs for reasons other than its prescribed recommendation, is known as Drug abuse or sub...
Pancreatitis
Pancreatitis or inflammation of the pancreas may show up as acute pancreatitis or chronic pain. Alco...

Disclaimer - All information and content on this site are for information and educational purposes only. The information should not be used for either diagnosis or treatment or both for any health related problem or disease. Always seek the advice of a qualified physician for medical diagnosis and treatment. Full Disclaimer

© All Rights Reserved 1997 - 2021

This site uses cookies to deliver our services. By using our site, you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Cookie Policy, Privacy Policy, and our Terms of Use