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The Cardinal Edge

Abstract

Ethanol is the most common human teratogen, contributing to fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) when effects are the most severe. Key effects of fetal alcohol syndrome are observed in the nervous system. The high prevalence of prenatal alcohol exposure necessitates novel treatment and prevention methods. However, ethical issues prevent researching humans in utero. For this reason, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has emerged as a model organism for studying FAS. Because Drosophila is a small and non-placental organism, its environment can be easily controlled, allowing for specific doses and time periods of ethanol exposure to be studied. This review discusses findings related to the impact of alcohol on the developing Drosophila nervous system. Findings related to reactive oxygen species (ROS) exposure, a consequence of prenatal alcohol exposure due to the metabolism of alcohol, are emphasized. Impacts of ethanol on insulin signaling and epidermal growth factors are also mentioned. Further research on Drosophila nervous system development under ethanol exposure may prove beneficial in the treatment and prevention of FAS.

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