We always knew drugs messed up with brain, what we did not know was that cocaine does not spare the fetal brain also! A study conducted by Chun-Ting Lee and colleagues at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, proves that cocaine interferes with the brain development in fetus while cocaine addict mothers-to-be are enjoying their high under the influence of the drugs.
Use of cocaine during pregnancy can lead to behavioral and neurological deformities in babies after birth. Researchers have noted that there are several cases identified every year in United States alone that confirm the use of cocaine during pregnancy.
The ill-effect of cocaine starts occurring after it is metabolized which releases a by-product. This by-product then interferes with ‘cyclin A’, a protein that regulates cell-division. The whole process causes oxidative stress within the endoplasmic reticulum which is a protein producing part in the cells. The researchers also showed with their study that when pregnant rats were treated with ‘cimetidine’, a medicinal drug used to lower stomach acid secretion, cimetidine counteracted with the enzymes that metabolized cocaine. The restriction of brain cells development that was caused due to cocaine metabolism was checked by cimetidine.
Researchers thus hope that they may come across similar treatments that obstruct cocaine’s interference with Cyclin A and help fetal brain development in drug addict pregnant women who fail to stop the drug abuse.
According to Steven Hyman of Harvard University, who was not among the team of researchers, notes excitedly that “the complexity of factors that might contribute to cognitive and emotional abnormalities in children exposed to cocaine and other dangerous drugs in uterus;” with reference to the implications of the findings.
Since the treatment’s trial was done on rats, it is still a matter of doubt whether the same would work in human pregnancies. To determine the treatment’s effect in humans, further research is very important according to the researchers.