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PET/MRI scans may help unravel mechanisms of prenatal drug damage

RESTON, Va.--Scientists have demonstrated a new way to assess the potentially damaging effects of prenatal drug exposure--a technique that could also be used to monitor a fetus's response to therapeutic drugs--using sophisticated, noninvasive medical imaging tools. Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, whose findings are reported in the February issue of the Society of Nuclear Medicine's Journal of Nuclear Medicine, used positron emission tomography (PET) combined with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to track the uptake and distribution of trace amounts of cocaine in pregnant monkeys and found significant differences in where and how fast the drug accumulates in maternal and fetal organs.

"Understanding how drugs are transferred between a mother and her fetus during pregnancy may help us unravel the mechanisms of the drug's damaging effects on unborn children," said SNM member Helene Benveniste, M.D., Ph.D., chair of Brookhaven's medical department in Upton, N.Y., and lead author of the paper, "Maternal and Fetal 11C-Cocaine Uptake and Kinetics Measured In Vivo by Combined PET and MRI in Pregnant Nonhuman Primates."

"While studies that follow human drug abusers and their children over decades provide valuable information, animal studies can more quickly provide clues to the underlying mechanisms of damage and suggest ways to test new treatment or prevention strategies," said Benveniste.

The imaging tools could also be used to assess the effects of therapeutic drugs, such as administering synthetic narcotics to pregnant women following surgical procedures performed on fetuses in utero. "Following such surgeries, which are becoming more common to correct congenital malformations, the mother is treated with narcotics for pain--and anesthesiologists are relying on the mother transferring the pain medication to the fetus via the placenta. But we actually do not know if what we give is sufficient to 'satis
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Contact: Maryann Verrillo
mverrillo@snm.org
703-708-9000
Society of Nuclear Medicine
4-Feb-2005


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