Australia vitamin 'breakthrough' to cut miscarriages, birth defects

August 10, 2017
Taking the dietary supplement vitamin B3, also known as niacin, could significantly reduce the number of miscarriages and birth defects around the world, Australian scientists said

Taking a common vitamin supplement could significantly reduce the number of miscarriages and birth defects worldwide, Australian scientists said Thursday, in what they described as a major breakthrough in pregnancy research.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that deficiency in a key molecule among pregnant women stopped embryos and babies' organs from developing correctly in the womb, but could be treated by taking the dietary supplement B3, also known as niacin.

"Now, after 12 years of research, our team has also discovered that this deficiency can be cured and and birth defects prevented by taking a common vitamin," said Sally Dunwoodie, a biomedical researcher at the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute.

"The ramifications are likely to be huge. This has the potential to significantly reduce the number of miscarriages and birth defects around the world, and I do not use those words lightly."

Health Minister Greg Hunt hailed the study as a "historic medical breakthrough".

"Today's announcement provides new hope to the one in four pregnant women who suffer a miscarriage," Hunt said Thursday, citing Australian data.

"And with 7.9 million babies around the world currently being born with birth defects every year, this breakthrough is incredible news."

The scientists used genetic sequencing on families suffering from miscarriages and birth defects and found gene mutations that affected production of the molecule, NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide).

With Vitamin B3—found in meat and vegetables—needed to make NAD, they tested the effect of taking the supplement on developing mice embryos that had similar NAD deficiencies as human ones, and found a significant change.

"Before vitamin B3 was introduced into the (mice) mother's diet, embryos were either lost through miscarriage or the offspring were born with a range of severe birth defects," the Victor Chang Institute said in a statement.

"After the dietary change, both the miscarriages and were completely prevented, with all the offspring born perfectly healthy."

The researchers said the next step was to develop a test to measure NAD levels to identify which women were most at risk from having a baby with a , and to then ensure they had sufficient Vitamin B3.

They added that current vitamin supplements for might not contain sufficient levels of Vitamin B3.

The study was funded by the Australian government as well as private donations.

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5 comments

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Eikka
1 / 5 (1) Aug 10, 2017
found gene mutations that affected production of the molecule, NAD (nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide).


But if this is a hereditary issue, then "fixing" it by a regiment of dietary supplements to all mothers is counterproductive because it merely masks the problem and makes it worse.

Miscarriage is a nature's way of saying "this one probably won't survive anyhow".
Gigel
5 / 5 (1) Aug 10, 2017
Nature plays the dice in many cases. Before modern medicine a lot of children died; those that survived lived to adulthood, and not because they were stronger; in many cases they were simply lucky enough to survive through the most risky period of their life (except old age).

Also, it's not humans' business to let evolution do its work. It's the opposite: we use our intelligence to cheat evolution. That and gregariousness are our main strengths. In a way, all species use their talents to cheat evolution. None would let random mutations rule over. All do something to escape chance and improve on survival. Evolution happens when all else fails.
wkingmilw
not rated yet Aug 11, 2017
Finally found a use for Veg-a-Mite!!
Eikka
2 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2017
"Also, it's not humans' business to let evolution do its work. It's the opposite: we use our intelligence to cheat evolution. "


But it's not intelligent to ignore evolution as a force.

In a way, all species use their talents to cheat evolution. None would let random mutations rule over. All do something to escape chance and improve on survival. Evolution happens when all else fails.


Improving on survival is evolution. Nobody "cheats" evolution.

We've evolved the skill to alter our own genes to improve our own survival. Ignoring hereditary faults by giving people drugs and supplements is not an improvement, because it produces people with these genetic issues, who will always need special care for themselves and for their children to survive.

It works in certain contexts, but makes the species more fragile in others - such as if there's a war and you can't get a steady supply of the drugs that keep a sizeable portion of your population from getting ill.
Eikka
2 / 5 (1) Aug 12, 2017
Point being that when you get miscarriages or die early due to genetic faults, that's called natural selection. When natural selection is bypassed by medicine, you eventually reach a point where just about everyone has some flaw or another that requires intervention to lead a normal life, have offspring etc. That will be a huge burden on society.

So if natural selection is bypassed, at some point you have to start practicing artifical selection - gene manipulation and eugenics - to keep the society going. Otherwise it all breaks down.

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