It is known that drinking alcohol while pregnant can have a devastating impact on the developing baby, leading to poor cognition and behaviour. Alcohol is also known to increase the risk of miscarriages, stillbirth and other placental complications. However, comparatively little is known about what harm drinking around the time of conception might cause, before a mother knows she is pregnant.
During her PhD at the University of Queensland, Postdoctoral Research Scientist Jacinta Kalisch-Smith, now a member of the Sparrow Group here at DPAG, investigated early alcohol exposure in pregnancy and its impact on the early embryo and placental formation. Her resultant paper published in Development demonstrates compelling evidence that consuming alcohol in the very early stages of pregnancy can cause a foetus to grow poorly.
More information, in an article written by Jacinta, can be read in The Conversation here.
The full paper, Periconceptional alcohol exposure causes female-specific perturbations to trophoblast differentiation and placental formation in the rat, is available to read here.
Jacinta is currently investigating how environmental exposures such as maternal iron deficiency can alter heart development and lead to conditions such as congenital heart defects.