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Treatment of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Studied in Mice

Peptides derived from neurotrophic factors found to reverse alcohol-induced deficits

MONDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Two peptides can reverse learning deficits in grown mice due to prenatal exposure to alcohol in a mouse model of fetal alcohol syndrome, according to a study in the February issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Maddalena Incerti, M.D., from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and colleagues injected pregnant mice with ethanol on gestational day eight, and male offspring were treated on day 40 with saline or two peptides (D-NAPVSIPQ and D-SALLRSIPA) derived from neurotrophic factors that had been previously shown to protect against alcohol-induced damage when administered prenatally.

The researchers found that treatment with the two peptides reversed alcohol-induced learning deficits and reversed alcohol-induced changes in the expression of receptors for the neurotransmitter N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) in the hippocampus, cortex, and cerebellum. There were no significant differences in the expression of γ-aminobutyric acid type A receptors, which also mediate alcohol-induced neuronal loss and regulate long-term potentiation.

"These findings identify a novel treatment administered to the grown animal that prevents the long-term sequelae of alcohol exposure in utero and suggest a mechanism for neuroprotection," Incerti and colleagues conclude. "Given the role of NMDA receptors in learning, this may explain in part the mechanism of prevention of alcohol-induced learning deficits by D-NAPVSIPQ and D-SALLRSIPA."

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