Aus­tralia vi­ta­min ‘ break­through’ to cut mis­car­riages, de­fects

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD -

SYD­NEY — Tak­ing a com­mon vi­ta­min sup­ple­ment could sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the num­ber of mis­car­riages and birth de­fects world­wide, Aus­tralian sci­en­tists said on Thurs­day, in what they de­scribed as a ma­jor break­through in preg­nancy re­search.

The study, pub­lished in the New England Jour­nal of Medicine, found that de­fi­ciency in a key mol­e­cule among preg­nant women stopped em­bryos and ba­bies’ or­gans from de­vel­op­ing cor­rectly in the womb, but could be treated by tak­ing the di­etary sup­ple­ment vi­ta­min B3, also known as niacin.

“Now, af­ter 12 years of re­search, our team has also dis­cov­ered that this de­fi­ciency can be cured and mis­car­riages and birth de­fects pre­vented by tak­ing a com­mon vi­ta­min,” said Sally Dun­woodie, a bio- med­i­cal re­searcher at the Vic­tor Chang Car­diac Re­search In­sti­tute.

“The ram­i­fi­ca­tions are likely to be huge. This has the po­ten­tial to sig­nif­i­cantly re­duce the num­ber of mis­car­riages and birth de­fects around the world, and I do not use those words lightly.”

Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt hailed the study as a “historic med­i­cal break­through”.

“To­day’s an­nounce­ment pro­vides new hope to the one in four preg­nant women who suf­fer a mis­car­riage,” Hunt said on Thurs­day, cit­ing Aus­tralian data.

“And with 7.9 mil­lion ba­bies around the world cur­rently be­ing born with birth de­fects ev­ery year, this break­through is in­cred­i­ble news.”

The sci­en­tists used ge­netic se­quenc­ing on fam­i­lies suf­fer­ing from mis­car­riages and

Sally Dun­woodie, bio­med­i­cal re­searcher at Vic­tor Chang Car­diac Re­search In­sti­tute.

birth de­fects and found gene mu­ta­tions that af­fected pro­duc­tion of the mol­e­cule, NAD (ni­coti­namide ade­nine din­u­cleotide).

With Vi­ta­min B3 — found in meat and veg­eta­bles — needed to make NAD, they tested the ef­fect of tak­ing the sup­ple­ment on de­vel­op­ing mice em­bryos that had sim­i­lar NAD de­fi­cien­cies as hu­man ones, and found a sig­nif­i­cant change.

“Be­fore vi­ta­min B3 was in­tro­duced into the (mice) mother’s diet, em­bryos were ei­ther lost through mis­car­riage or the off­spring were born with a range of severe birth de­fects,” the Vic­tor Chang In­sti­tute said in a state­ment.

“Af­ter the di­etary change, both the mis­car­riages and birth de­fects were completely pre­vented, with all the off­spring born per­fectly healthy.”

The re­searchers said the next step was to de­velop a test to mea­sure NAD lev­els to iden­tify which women were most at risk from hav­ing a baby with a birth de­fect, and to then en­sure they had suf­fi­cient Vi­ta­min B3.

They added that cur­rent vi­ta­min sup­ple­ments for preg­nant women might not con­tain suf­fi­cient lev­els of Vi­ta­min B3.

The study was funded by the Aus­tralian gov­ern­ment as well as pri­vate do­na­tions.

KHALED AB­DUL­LAH / REUTERS

A man washes his camel in flood­wa­ter in the old quar­ter of Sanaa, Ye­men, on Wed­nes­day.

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