UCL News


Study into potential of vitamins to reduce birth defects

9 September 2010


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A UCL study is investigating whether food supplements other than folic acid could reduce the risk of birth defects.

If women take folic acid in pregnancy it can reduce the chance of their baby having neural tube defects (spina bifida or anencephaly). Professor Andrew Copp, Director of the UCL Institute of Child Health, is leading research to find out whether the nutrient inositol could further lower the the risk of a birth defect, particularly in those cases where folic acid is not effective, as it can do in mice.

The PONTI Study is a controlled randomised clinical trial in pregnant women - half the women receive folic acid plus inositol and half receive folic acid plus placebo.  The intention is to see whether inositol and folic acid are more effective than folic acid alone in preventing these birth conditions.

Professor Copp said: "While all pregnant women should take folic acid it is known that some people, derive less benefit from it in reducing these defects. (This may be because of their specific genetic inheritance.)  The study could therefore add very useful public health information and advice to the existing programme."

The trial is recruiting women. To be eligible women must be between 18 and 40, to have a history of a neural tube defect in pregnancy, and planning a further pregnancy.

Further information is available from ponti@ich.ucl.ac.uk or by calling 07772 258243.

Image: A newborn baby

UCL context

The UCL Institute of Child Health, in partnership with Great Ormond Street Hospital, is the largest centre in Europe devoted to clinical and basic research and postgraduate teaching in children's health.

Great Ormond Street Hospital, along with four other of Britain's world-renowned medical research centres and hospitals, is part of UCL Partners, a collaboration of world-class researchers and clinicians to create Europe's strongest academic health science partnership, focused on preventing and treating major diseases that affect the populations in London, the UK and worldwide.

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