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Vitamin C transporter gene discovery in mice

Bethesda, Md. - In what could provide new clues to the causes underlying the serious complications associated with premature birth, scientists at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) have discovered a possible link between reduced vitamin C availability during pregnancy, and the devastating respiratory failure and massive cerebral bleeding that can occur immediately following premature birth.

The study, published today in the journal Nature Medicine by doctors and scientists from NHGRIs Genetic Disease Research Branch, the National Institute of Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), and the division of Neonatology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Childrens Hospital, demonstrated that mice deprived of vitamin C during pregnancy and birth died almost immediately after birth from bleeding in the brain and respiratory failure.

In humans, intracerebral hemorrhage, lung complications and respiratory failure are frequent causes of serious morbidity and death in premature infants. Maturation of the lungs occurs during the final few months of human gestation. A child born before this maturation is at high risk for these complications in the immediate postnatal period.

What Im suggesting is that we need to take a look at whether vitamin C in human fetuses before birth, transported from the maternal circulation, is a normal physiological factor that helps to mature and protect the lungs and brain of newborn infants, said Dr. Robert Nussbaum, chief of the Genetic Disease Research Branch at NHGRI and co-author of the paper.

There may be a link between sub-clinical deficiencies in vitamin C in the mother that is, a deficiency not significant enough to cause scurvy and the problems that can occur when the fetus prepares to leave the womb. We dont know for sure. What Im suggesting is that the work in mice points to an area that needs to be investigated.

In the study, scientists created a mouse
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Contact: Geoff Spencer
spencerg@mail.nih.gov
301-402-0911
NIH/National Human Genome Research Institute
1-May-2002


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