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Alcohol Use in Pregnancy Changes Fetal Genes, Animal Study Finds

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An animal study conducted at Australia's Queensland Institute of Medical Research found that alcohol exposure during pregnancy can cause permanent genetic changes in fetuses, the Australian Associated Press reported Jan. 15.

Researchers fed mice either water or alcohol during early pregnancy and found that those given alcohol had twice as many dark-furred offspring than the water group. Skull malformations and decreased body weight also were observed, similar to the symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) among humans.

Lead author Suyinn Chong said the research could aid in development of a DNA test to screen children for FAS. “So what we hope is that if we can screen the children, identify these epigenetic changes which might be markers of future educational or social problems, we could basically aid diagnosis and allow early intervention,” Chong said.

The study was published in the journal PLoS Genetics.

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