Scientists out of the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney, Australia made a recent discovery that may help women reduce the chances of birth defects and miscarriages while pregnant. According to a large study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a certain vitamin may have he ability to cure molecular deficiencies that cause both miscarriages and birth defects.
When researchers genetically sequenced families who had suffered miscarriages and birth defects, they found a gene mutation. The mutation affected the production of a molecule known as nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide or NAD. NAD is an enzyme found in all living cells. It’s essential for energy production, as well as DNA repair and cell communication.
Researchers then studied the genes in mice. They removed the two genes associated with miscarriages and birth defects from mice to see if the mice would experience birth defects from lower productions of NAD. At first, the researchers saw no immediate effect. The mice were still producing NAD. Then, they realized that the food they were feeding the mice was rich in Vitamin B3. The Vitamin B3 was helping the mice create NAD.
When the Vitamin B3 was removed from their diet, many of the mice died before birth. The mice who survived suffered serious birth defects. The 12-year study found that boosting Vitamin B3 levels can increase the production of NAD. When the mice ate food that contained Vitamin B3, all of the offspring were born healthy.
Lead researcher Professor Sally Dunwoodie said, “The ramifications are likely to be huge. 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.”
The results of the study will need to be replicated in humans before doctors can officially recommend Vitamin B3 supplements to pregnant women, but the results of the preclinical trial are promising. Executive director of the Research Institute, Professor Robert Graham, said, “We believe that this breakthrough will be one of our country’s greatest medical discoveries.”
According to the study, one in four pregnant women worldwide will suffer a miscarriage, and over 3.3. million children under five currently die from serious birth defects each year. Graham explained, “It’s extremely rare to discover the problem and provide a preventive solution at the same time. It’s actually a double breakthrough… This will change the way pregnant women are cared for around the world.”