Pregnant mothers who drink alcohol during pregnancy may affect not only their own baby, but the multiple future generations as well.

Much has been said and studied about the effects of alcohol on pregnant women and their babies. Now, a new study from Binghamton University found yet another negative effect of drinking during pregnancy: having alcoholic grandchildren.

Prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) elevates the risk of offsprings to be alcoholic in the future by modifying how the neurological and physical state of a person reacts to alcohol challenge. Such alterations have been associated with transgenerational transmission, but there have been no studies in the past to back it up.

Looking Beyond

Scientific research about alcohol consumption during pregnancy mainly focus on the effects on the fetuses directly exposed. If multiple generations are involved, the studies only target cellular activities, never alcohol behaviors.

"This paper is the first to demonstrate transgenerational effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy on alcohol-related behavior in offspring," says study lead author Nicole Cameron.

Alcoholism Through Generations

For the study, alcohol-related behavior means consumption levels and sensitivity to alcohol effects.

To determine this, the researchers gave an equivalent of one glass of wine to pregnant study rats every day for four days. The subjects were at their 17th-20th day of gestation, which is equivalent to the second trimester (four to six months) of pregnancy in humans.

The researchers tested the resulting young offsprings for water and alcohol consumption. They also looked into the alcohol sensitivity of adolescent males by injecting a high dose of alcohol that made them drunk. To measure sensitivity, the researchers measured how long it took the subjects to recover and stand up on four paws again.

The findings of the experiment show that drinking alcohol, regardless of how little the amount is, may cause her descendants to become alcoholic.

More To Come

After completing this study, Cameron and colleagues received a grant to continue their work on the transgenerational effects of consuming alcohol while pregnant.

For their future research, they will look into how alcohol effects are transferred through multiple generations. They will use methods that look into the genomic and epigenomic information of their subjects.

The study was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research on Feb. 15.

Photo: Emiliano De Laurentiis | Flickr

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