Published: Thu, August 10, 2017
Medicine | By Earnest Bishop

Vitamin B3 could help prevent birth defects

Vitamin B3 could help prevent birth defects

Taking Vitamin B3 could prevent miscarriages and birth defects, a study on mice suggests.

It was said that the common supplement Niacin, which is known as Vitamin B3 is potent enough to cure molecular deficiencies that can cause birth defects and miscarriages in women, as per Xinhua news agency.

"But, we're not all the same in how we absorb nutrients", she said, adding that body mass index and diabetes can influence how a woman produces NAD.

A genomic analysis revealed that both parents carried a mutation in a gene involved in the production of NAD - a vital molecule that contributes to energy production, DNA fix, and cell communication. There are about 310,000 babies born in Australia each year.

"That was our Eureka moment", Dunwoodie told Gretchen Vogel at Science.

Professor Roberts says the study does not mean that taking niacin/vitamin B3 in pregnancy prevents birth defects.

To test possible treatment mechanisms, the team engineered mice with the same deficiency, using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technique. This will enable doctors to identify those women who are at greatest risk of having a baby with a birth defect, and ensure they are getting sufficient vitamin B3.

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"We gave pregnant mice with the NAD gene knocked out a regular dose of vitamin B3 and we found it prevented miscarriages and birth defects, over-riding the genetic block", Professor Dunwoodie said.

As far as a proof of concept goes, we've only seen this result in animals - and the principal deficiency has only been studied in four human families - so we shouldn't get too carried away with the findings just yet.

"What is most interesting is that these birth defects are potentially treatable if the mother is given niacin (NAD) supplementation during pregnancy", he says.

Professor Sally Dunwoodie, who has led the research, said: "Now, after 12 years of research, our team has also discovered that this deficiency can be cured and miscarriages and birth defects prevented by taking a common vitamin". Initially, all pups were born healthy, but then the researchers realised that mouse chow is rich in niacin (vitamin B3), which cells can use in place of nicotinamide to make NAD.

"The goal is to have a quick and easy test that could be done at the same time as a pregnancy test, either in urine or blood", she said.

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

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