Single early dose of ethanol causes acute morphological defects in the chick embryo: A study of Foetal Alcohol Syndrome

Research output: Other contribution


Foetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is an umbrella term used to define a range of birth defects caused by ethanol. It is now widely considered and accepted that the effects of maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy can have adverse effects on the developing embryo. First coined in 1973, the most clinically recognisable form and most severe form of FASD, is foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS). In the United Kingdom there is no reliable evidence for the incidence of FASD, while specifically in Northern Ireland there are currently no data available. The United Kingdom Department of Health and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists recommend total abstinence from alcohol if pregnant or trying to conceive. However despite recommending total abstinence, they also recommend that if the choice is made to consume alcohol during pregnancy, then no more than one or two units, not more than once or twice per week should be followed. The British Medical Association reported that there was a lack of awareness of FASD within the general population and among medical healthcare professionals. They have highlighted a pressing need for guidance on the diagnosis and management FASD in the United Kingdom. Diagnoses of FAS may vary drastically from consultation to consultation due in part to the use of differing diagnostic tools. A more consistent use of diagnostic criteria by healthcare professionals in addition to thorough training and education may increase, improve and enhance practitioner awareness and reporting. Currently in the undergraduate medical curriculum in Northern Ireland, medical students receive information on FAS in their fourth year as part of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology curriculum. The aim of this study was to develop a characteristic animal model of FAS, to potentially be used as a teaching aid in national medical curriculums across the United Kingdom. Children with FAS exhibit classical craniofacial abnormalities, resulting eye defects of which a reduction in eye size, or microphthalmia, is a commonly observed abnormality. Treatment with ethanol in an avian model of FAS, was able to significant reduce eye diameter in the vertical plane. By increasing the knowledge base of FAS and FASD in healthcare professionals at an early stage in their careers, it is hoped that they provide effective, considered and factual advice to pregnant patients. By increasing public awareness, knowledge and understanding of the consequences of foetal ethanol exposure it would be hoped that reported incidences of FAS and FASD would fall.
Original languageEnglish
TypeMasters Dissertation
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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