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Montreal Gazette: Why the most common developmental disability in Canada is misdiagnosed

April 29, 2019 — 

As the Montreal Gazette reports: 

FASD is associated with a bewildering number of symptoms, and without support, outcomes can be devastating: unemployment, homelessness, addiction, abuse….

The impact of paternal alcohol consumption is another question researchers are exploring. Results so far include lower birth weights as well as cognitive deficits in the offspring of fathers who drink.

Dr. Geoff Hicks leads the Regenerative Medicine Program at the University of Manitoba and has been studying the role of epigenetics in FASD for years. He says research around heritability of epigenetic changes and the effect of alcohol on sperm are both in early stages.

He is also cautious about using epigenetic signatures for diagnosis.

“There can be many confounding effects for FASD, like stress and economic status,” he says. “They’re all environmental impacts that could and would leave epigenetic marks, so it may be a long time before we can say, ‘This is alcohol’ versus ‘This is smoking,’ versus ‘This is alcohol, smoking, and poverty.’ ”

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