Cereals, oranges may protect against development of neural tube defects

early pregnancyWashington, May 26 : Studies have shown that up to 70 percent of neural tube defects can be prevented by folic acid supplementation in early pregnancy. Now, a new study in mice has shown that another nutrient, inositol, can protect against the development of neural tube defects.

Inositol is found in many foods, particularly in cereals with high bran content, nuts, beans, and fruit, especially cantaloupe melons and oranges.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

found neural tube defects in some mouse embryos from female mice genetically modified to have low levels of ITPK1, an enzyme involved in the metabolism of inositol, a compound important for neural development and function.

The study, led by Monita Wilson, Ph. D., suggests that inositol depletion is linked to these birth defects.

The two most common neural tube defects are spina bifida and anencephaly.

Wilsonand colleagues created genetically modified mice to have low levels of one of the inositol kinases, then took a close look at their embryos during each day of the
21-day gestation period.

"Because of the short gestation period, a mouse embryo looks very, very different from day to day. When we looked at the mutant embryos, between the ninth and 12th days of gestation, we noticed that about 12 percent to 15 percent had spina bifida and exencephaly, similar to anencephaly in humans," Wilson said.

Some of the mutant mouse embryos had kyphoscoliosis or other skeletal deformities.

Wilson said that this led the team to consider that there are birth defects that don''t respond to folic acid but may respond to inositol treatment.

The research is published May 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition. (ANI)