By understanding fetal brain injury caused by exposure to methanol and related toxins, an emerging team of researchers is laying the groundwork for potential new therapeutic interventions to protect fetuses at risk for FASD.
"The main goal will always be prevention of FASD," says lead researcher James Reynolds, Queen's University professor of Toxicology and Pharmacology, "but we also have to develop strategies to minimize injury to the developing fetus and individualize earlier therapeutic interventions for children with pre-natal exposure to alcohol."
The interdisciplinary research team, which also includes James Brien and Doug Munoz from Queen's, Peter Carlen (University Health Network), Bhushan Kapur (Sunnybrook Hospital) and Brenda Stade (St. Michael's Hospital) from Toronto, received just under $1.5 million dollars in funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
The Queen's researchers have found that simple eye movement tasks can be used to assess brain function in children with FASD. Since this technology is portable, the researchers plan to travel across the country to bring the research program into affected communities. "It's estimated that the incidence of FASD is about one per cent in the general population," Dr. Reynolds says, "but there are regions and communities in this country where the population affected by FASD increases dramatically."
Using blood samples from at risk mother-baby pairs, the Toronto team members hope to identify biological markers that may predict brain injury in the child. At risk babies will be tracked for 24 months following birth so researchers can identify early signs of FASD and develo
Contact: Lorinda Peterson