17-40 Segment 1: A Possible Treatment For Fetal Alcohol Syndrome



Fetal Alcohol Syndrome can cause many physical and mental problems that last a lifetime.  Dr. Eva Redei, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Northwestern University, says that most children who grow up with fetal alcohol syndrome usually never live independently because their neurodevelopment was stalled, and if they make it to adulthood they will require help. Babies with the most severe form of FAS are characterized by wide-set eyes, a flattened crease above the upper lip, a low IQ, and other cognitive and behavioral issues. About one percent of children born in the US have a severe form of fetal alcohol syndrome, with two to five percent falling on the fetal alcohol spectrum. But because there is no definitive test, some children are never diagnosed on the spectrum.

Dr. Joanne Rovet of Hospital for Sick Children explains that adults with fetal alcohol syndrome are at risk for mental illness. They also have an increased chance of getting in trouble with the law. About fifty percent of juvenile delinquents had prenatal alcohol exposure.

A study conducted by Dr. Redei on rats indicates that FAS can be treated at birth. Rats were given alcohol and split into two groups, with one group’s babies given a thyroid drug or a diabetic drug like metformin. The other group of babies which wasn’t given medication showed signs of FAS. Both drugs were shown to reduce or reverse the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure. Dr. Redei is now working on starting a human trial.


  • Maggie, parent of son with fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Dr. Eva Redei, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University
  • Dr. Joanne Rovet, Senior Scientists, Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, and Senior Professor of Psychology, University of Toronto

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