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Simple shield against birth defects?

For some women with a history of multiple miscarriages, vitamins and amino acid supplements may provide the key to a healthy baby, two new studies suggest. The findings, if confirmed in clinical trials, could point to a relatively simple way to reduce the risk of certain types of birth defects.

Several years ago, researchers reported epidemiologic evidence that infants whose mothers regularly took vitamins during pregnancy ran a lower risk of neural-tube defects (SN: 12/10/88, p.380). Norman W. Klein of the University of Connecticut in Storrs now reports further evidence that nutrients might help guard against such defects.

Klein's team obtained blood samples from 89 women who had suffered at least one miscarriage and 15 women whose pregnancies had all led to the delivery of healthy babies. In the lab, the researchers placed rat embryos in the clear portion, or serum, of each volunteer's blood. They reasoned that the rat embryos' development in the serum would offer clues to how a human embryo might respond to the woman's blood in utero.

The rate embryos grown in serum from women with a history of spontaneous abortion were more likely to show defects, especially neutral-tube defects, than were rat embryos that developed in serum from controls. Klein says this suggests that some women have an "embryo toxin" in their blood. The problem seems more severe for women who have experienced many miscarriages, he adds.

But adding vitamin and amino acid supplements to their serum boosted the chance of normal rad-embryo development, hinting at a way to improve these women's chances of a normal pregnancy, says Klein.

In a very preliminary trial, the researchers gave nutritional supplements to eight women who were attempting to become pregnant after many miscarriages. Four subsequently became pregnant, delivering healthy babies.

Preliminary findings from a separate study appear to confirm Klein's results with the rat embryos. The study, led by Thomas Flynn of the FDA's Beltsville (Md.) Research Facility, indicates that the blood serum of women who suffer repeated miscarriages is more likely to lead to defective rat embryos. Both Flynn and Klein emphasize, however, that further study is needed to establish whether their findings apply to human embryos.
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Title Annotation:vitamins and amino acids in women who have had miscarriages
Author:Fackelmann, Kathy A.
Publication:Science News
Date:Jul 6, 1991
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