March of Dimes invests in birth defects research
For many years, March of Dimes grantees have been seeking to identify genes and environmental factors that cause or contribute to birth defects. For example, in 2015, there were 78 million dollars in active birth defects research grants.
Today is World Birth Defects Day
Understanding the causes of birth defects is a crucial first step towards developing effective ways to prevent or treat them. Some birth defects are caused by a mutation (change) in a single gene. In 1991, Stephen Warren, PhD, a March of Dimes grantee at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, identified the gene that causes fragile X syndrome, the most common inherited cause of intellectual disabilities.
Current grantees are seeking to identify genes that may play a role in other common birth defects, such as congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH). Others are working on identifying environmental exposures that can cause birth defects. In fact, did you know that in 1973, March of Dimes grantees were the first to link drinking alcohol during pregnancy to a specific pattern of birth defects and intellectual disabilities now known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders? By understanding the connection between alcohol and birth defects, pregnant moms are now able to have healthier pregnancies.
Many other birth defects appear to be caused by multiple genes and environmental factors, adding to the complexity of understanding their causes. March of Dimes grantees have discovered genes that contribute to heart defects and to cleft lip/palate, both of which are among the most common birth defects.
Please help us raise awareness of this serious global problem and advocate for more, surveillance, prevention, care and research to help babies and children.
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