Closing in on neural tube defects.Pregnant women who supplement their diets with folic acid, a B vitamin, can reduce their risk of delivering a baby with a neural tube defect neural tube defect
Congenital defect of the brain or spinal cord from abnormal growth of their precursor, the neural tube (see embryology), usually with spine or skull defects. , a malformation malformation /mal·for·ma·tion/ (-for-ma´shun)
1. a type of anomaly.
2. a morphologic defect of an organ or larger region of the body, resulting from an intrinsically abnormal developmental process. of the spinal cord. Yet researchers admit they still don't know how folic acid exerts its protective effect.
A new study may provide some clues. Muin J. Khoury and M.J. Adams Jr. at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), agency of the U.S. Public Health Service since 1973, with headquarters in Atlanta; it was established in 1946 as the Communicable Disease Center. in Atlanta and their colleagues decided to take a look at frozen blood samples obtained from pregnant women whose developing fetuses were being checked for the presence of a neural tube defect. The team wanted to see what differences, if any, existed in the blood taken from women who had delivered a baby with the defect and those who bore a healthy infant.
The team soon homed in on an amino acid called methylmalonic acid, or MMA (Microcomputer Managers Association, Inc.) A membership organization with chapters throughout the U.S. that was devoted to educating personnel responsible for personal computers. It disbanded in 1996.
Mma - A fast Mathematica-like system, in Allegro CL by R. Fateman, 1991. . They discovered that women who had the highest concentrations of MMA in their bloodstreams had the greatest risk of delivering an infant with a neural tube defect. In fact, women with the highest concentrations of this chemical had a 13-fold greater risk of bearing a child with this defect than women whose blood contained the lowest concentrations of MMA, he adds.
If other researchers confirm the link between MMA and neural tube defects Neural tube defects
A group of birth defects that affect the backbone and sometimes the spinal chord.
Mentioned in: Birth Defects , the finding may help scientists figure out what goes wrong during the development of infants born with the condition. Indeed, Adams notes that MMA and folic acid are involved with methylation methylation,
n a phase-II detoxification pathway in the liver; methyl groups combine with toxins to rid the body of various substances.
(meth´ , the addition of methyl groups to an amino acid. He wonders if a neural tube defect results when this methylation process goes awry in the fetus.
For now, that theory remains unproven. "This whole finding is preliminary at this point. We really don't know what it means," Khoury says.