Birth brain defect could be treated with vitamin supplement
March 17th, 2009
(PhysOrg.com) -- Pioneering research published today suggests that a vitamin supplement taken during pregnancy could prevent hydrocephalus - one of the common forms of birth brain defect.
Scientists at The University of Manchester and Lancaster University say laboratory tests have shown that administering a combination of vitamins (tetrahydrofolate and folinic acid), dramatically reduces the risk of hydrocephalus.
Dr Jaleel Miyan, who led the research in Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences, said: “Hydrocephalus is a condition arising from an abnormal build-up of fluid within the chambers of the brain.
“This fluid build-up - usually caused by a blockage in the fluid’s pathway due to trauma, infection or abnormal development - is associated with an increase in the pressure on the brain resulting in brain damage. When this happens, doctors can relieve this pressure only by performing surgery.
“Our studies have revealed that hydrocephalus is associated with a change in the composition of the cerebrospinal fluid and it is this chemical change that prevents normal growth of the brain cells resulting in arrested brain development. This occurs prior to any brain damage due to raised pressure.”
The findings of the study, funded by Association for Spina Bifida & Hydrocephalus (ASBAH) and published in the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology, led the team to examine ways of stimulating cell division to encourage normal brain development.
Dr Miyan explained: “A combination of tetrahydrofolate and folinic acid - both naturally occurring substances - stimulated brain cell growth and had a significant positive effect on brain development in laboratory experiments on rats and reduced the incidence of hydrocephalus.
“In laboratory experiments, the combined folate supplement works at any stage during pregnancy which means that it may be effective even if it is commenced after the diagnosis of hydrocephalus is made at an 18 to 20 week pregnancy scan.