Spring is in the air and with all the great weather who could say no to a nice refreshing beer or upside down margarita shot?
Well, if you’re an expecting mother you may just want to hold off. Recent research from Dr. Shiva Singh’s laboratory at Western University (Oh Canada!) has shown that not only can binge drinking change your child’s epigenome, but so can drinking even moderate amounts every now and then.
As lead author Ben Laufer puts it, they used four different mouse models that examined the effects of both “blackout” binge drinking during different trimesters of pregnancy and, more shockingly, one model that equates to “the mother voluntarily having a casual drink or two every now and then.” Here’s what they found:
- All four alcohol exposure paradigms produced global life-long changes in microRNA and gene expression.
- Some of these microRNAs show inverse changes when compared to their predicted target genes after fetal alcohol exposure.
- These target genes are involved in a number of critical neurodevelopmental and adult brain processes.
- None of the identified transcripts were seen in all four paradigms, except for H/MBII-52, which is a unique snoRNA that is involved in the etiology of numerous complex neurological disorders.
- Looking further into their moderate exposure paradigm, they found long-lasting changes in 6660 promoter regions.
- These changes to global DNA methylation were not random, they occurred in genes involved in neurodevelopment and adult brain processes.
- Furthermore, the methylation changes occurred in CTCF bindings site, illustrating the functional consequences of in changes to DNA methylation.
While this research was done in mice and not humans, Laufer quickly points out that “We’re all mammals. What applies in developing mice can apply to developing humans. While there’re many differences between us and mice, there’s extensive peer-reviewed research saying that this isn’t one of them.”
Laufer concludes “this research expands on the mechanisms behind a large body of growing scientific evidence showing that for pregnant women, there really is no safe time or safe amount when it comes to alcohol.”
Read all about it in Disease Models & Mechanisms, June 2013