Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and Mental Health Awareness Month

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IMRIC and You
By: 

Sidney Slivko

Sidney Slivko Photo

I am a writer and teacher who has always had an interest in science. Well, science fiction, at any rate. Not the bug-eyed monster type, but the kind of sci-fi that speculated on what the world would look like 10, 20 or 100 years from now. Innovation and new ideas excite me, as do the changes they  bring to our lives, whether it's a new toy I've got to get, a new application I want to add to my laptop, a new puzzle to solve or a new food I haven't tasted yet.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month in America, and IMRIC.org is using this opportunity to call attention the work being done by IMRIC in preventing one of today's most severe mental health problems: Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).  

FASD, which is the result of alcohol consumption in pregnant women, affects approximately 1 percent of today's children, causing neurodevelopmental problems and birth defects. At issue here is the fact that the negative effects of alcohol consumption on the fetus can start in the first weeks of pregnancy, before the woman at risk even realizes she is pregnant.  If she stops drinking only after she discovers she is pregnant, it may already be too late.

Now, the Government of Manitoba is collaborating with IMRIC by forming the Canada-Israel International Fetal Alcohol Consortium to combat FASD.  Building on IMRIC's landmark laboratory research which demonstrated that vitamin A can counteract the effects of ethyl alcohol in fetal development, the IMRIC consortium hopes to prevent FASD incidence through a coordinated program of prevention, nutrition and education. 

"Our experimental results suggest that supplementing the diet with vitamin A, which is a simple food supplement you can buy in any drugstore, will counteract the effects of alcohol," said IMRIC's Professor Abraham Fainsod whose team conducted the research.  "We are now working with the government of Manitoba to test whether manipulating the levels of vitamin A in the diet can reduce the severity and the incidence of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder."

In addition to the translational research they will be conducting, the Consortium will also develop the first comprehensive family database to determine the genetic links to FASD.

Click here to learn more about the Canada-Israel International Fetal Alcohol Consortium.