By: Marco Reina

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Alcohol consumption during pregnancy could affect the wellbeing of both pregnant mother and her child, we all are aware of this fact. But have you ever heard that alcohol during pregnancy can affect three generations?

A new study has came up with the terrifying findings that drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk that the next three generations may develop alcoholism.

A research team from the Binghamton University reached their findings after investigating the effects of alcohol consumption by pregnant mothers on alcohol-related behaviour of generations that were not directly exposed to alcohol while in the uterus.

The team led by Nicole Cameron, assistant professor of psychology at the Binghamton University, carried out a research on mice,

As part of the study, researchers gave pregnant rats the equivalent of one glass of wine for four days in a row. The animals consumed alcohol at gestational days 17-20, which equates to the second trimester in female humans. Subsequently, juvenile male and female offspring were tested for their intake of water or alcohol. The researchers then injected adolescent males with a high-alcohol dose in order to test their sensitivity to alcohol. The alcohol dose made the animals unresponsive. The team then measured the time drunk rodents took to recover their senses.

The research team found that a mother’s alcohol consumption during pregnancy, even just a small dose, increases the risk of her progeny to become alcoholic.

“Our findings show that in the rat, when a mother consumes the equivalent of one glass of wine four times during the pregnancy, her offspring and grand-offspring, up to the third generation, show increased alcohol preference and less sensitivity to alcohol,” said Cameron. “Thus, the offspring are more likely to develop alcoholism. This paper is the first to demonstrate trans-generational effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy on alcohol-related behavior in offspring.”

In several previous studies, it has been established that alcohol exposure during pregnancy could be detrimental for fetus but no research, so far, has investigated alcohol-related behaviors over multiple generation.
Cameron and team now intend to carry out further research to determine the transgenerational effects of gestational alcohol exposure for which they have recently received a grant from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

“This paper is the first to demonstrate trans-generational effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy on alcohol-related behavior in offspring,” Cameron said. “We now need to identify how this effect is passed through multiple generations by investigating the effects alcohol has on the genome and epigenome (molecules that control gene translation).”

Cameron and co-researchers have carried out the study in association with Michael Nizhnikov from South Connecticut University. Cameron’s study, titled “Trans-generational transmission of the effect of gestational ethanol exposure on ethanol use-related behavior,” appears in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

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