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JLeslie's avatar

When someone has facial changes due to fetal alcohol syndrome are they passed down to their children?

Asked by JLeslie (55803points) June 21st, 2010

So, I guess I am asking if the changes are mutagenic? Not sure if that is the right word? Some of the mild changes I know of are eyes farther apart, nose kind of turned up, and thinner lips, especially upper lip. So let’s say the person who has some of these characteristics gets pregnant, but never drinks, will these traits still be passed down?

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9 Answers

BhacSsylan's avatar

Here’s the list on the effects due to fetal alcohol syndrome by the Mayo Clinic. According to them, FAS is simply a result of high blood alcohol levels in the fetus (as a result of undeveloped liver, etc), and so, From what i know about alcohol toxicity (which isn’t much, but i’ll try), the results are mostly physical damage (destruction of cells, mostly), and psychological (in terms of brain function impairment), and not genetically altering. As such, it should not be readily mutagenic. However, that’s the word of a biochemist, and not a doctor, so feel free to take that with a grain of salt.

Rarebear's avatar

AFAIK it’s not mutagenic.

CaptainHarley's avatar

No. The effects of alcohol do not extend to the genetic level. Just to be on the safe side, you should talk with your physician before you get pregnant.

syz's avatar

FAS is a teratogen: any agent that can disturb the development of an embryo or fetus. It is not a genetic mutation and so is not hereditary.

SmashTheState's avatar

Welllll… just to be contrarian, I’ll point out that neo-Lamarckianism is making an astonishing comeback in modern genetics. We’re finding that genes are a lot more complex than was originally thought, and that external influences can cause otherwise dormant genes to begin expressing themselves. So even if FAS doesn’t cause any overt genetic damage, it can still theoretically trip genes which cause changes in the offspring. (For example—and you materialist skeptics can Google it to confirm this—experiments with drosophilia have shown repeatedly that environmental pressure increases the rate of speciation, showing that there is indeed a mechanism within the genome for triggering mutation.)

BhacSsylan's avatar

@SmashTheState Oh, not just drosophila. They’s shown epigenetics can cause huge changes, there’s a great study on mice where researchers implanted a gene that turned coats yellow (and apparently mess with metabolism) with a epigenetic trigger, and shown an obvious and marked change in phenotype from mothers with different diets. I can probably find the paper if you’d like. My lab is actually doing some epigenetic work and it’s come up recently.

Annnyway, yes, that’s a perfectly viable issue here, but since working knowledge on epigenetics is so tiny, I feel it’s worth discounting right now. Not because it doesn’t have an effect, because it obviously does, but because we have such a poor understanding of it that it would be virtually impossible for us to make heads or tales of this particular case.

Also, epigenetic studies show that the influence can easily be from far before pregnancy, even back several generations. So.. yeah. Fascinating, but insanely complicated.

Interesting note, though. Smoking is even worse then we already knew! It’s shown a negative correlation with standardized testing for children of smokers who smoked before pregnancy, regardless of during.

JLeslie's avatar

@CaptainHarley Not sure why you use “you” it’s not about me :).

CaptainHarley's avatar

@JLeslie

Sorry! Force of habit, I suppose. : (

JLeslie's avatar

Thanks everyone. I had never heard of epigenetics, I just read up a little on it, very interesting.

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