Health Care

Could this medical breakthrough really prevent miscarriages and birth defects?

Could this medical breakthrough really prevent miscarriages and birth defects?

Taking vitamin B3 supplements can significantly prevent miscarriages and birth defects, according to a new landmark Australian study. This time, numerous pubs died before birth and those that were born had severe defects similar to the ones seen in the human babies.

When researchers genetically engineered mice with the same gene variants, they found that pups were born with birth defects, but that this could be prevented by giving the mouse mums vitamin B3 during pregnancy.

Professor Robert Graham, the institute's executive director, said: We believe that this breakthrough will be one of Australia's greatest medical discoveries.

Researchers have identified a deficiency in a developmental molecule called NAD that can keep a baby's organs from forming properly in the womb - but the shortfall could be addressed by pregnant women taking vitamin B3, which may prevent a range of birth defects.

"Arguably, it's the most important discovery for pregnant women since folate", lead researcher Professor Sally Dunwoodie said of the breakthrough.

'This has the potential to significantly reduce the number of miscarriages and birth defects around the world and I do not say those words lightly.

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"A broader question is whether dietary niacin deficiency might play a role in birth defects even in the absence of the genetic deficiency of NAD, and whether dietary supplementation of niacin might be of benefit to pregnant women in the general population".

In the first study of its kind, researchers at the Victor Chang Institute found this deficiency can be very unsafe during pregnancy, crippling an embryo as it forms in the womb.

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.

Studies have also shown that by the third trimester of pregnancy, 60% of women are deficit in vitamin B3 and they need to complement their diet with additional supplements of the nutrient.

The mice that were not given additional B3 went on to miscarry or have babies born with defects, while those who had the supplement added continued to have offspring that were born healthy.

The research is all the more remarkable for simultaneously discovering what's behind the problems as well as a tangible solution. "It's actually a double breakthrough".