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Optical coherence tomography to assess the persistent and long-term effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on fetal brain vasculature

Jessica Gutierrez,1, Manmohan Singh,1, Rajesh C. Miranda,2, Kirill V. Larin1
1 Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Houston, Houston, TX, USA
2 Department of Neuroscience & Experimental Therapeutics, Texas A&M University, TX, USA


Prenatal alcohol exposure is the leading cause of developmental disabilities worldwide. Previous studies have demonstrated the acute effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on fetal brain vasculature, diminishing brain growth as well as decreasing cerebrovascular blood flow. In this study, we use correlation mapping optical coherence tomography to assess the long-term and persistent effects of prenatal alcohol exposure on fetal brain vasculature in utero, testing multiple alcohol dosages (1.5g/kg, 3g/kg, and 4.5g/kg) at different embryonic stages (GD12.5, GD14.5, and GD17.5). Results show vasoconstriction of the main blood vessel after dosing for three days; imaging at an earlier embryonic stage shows a noticeable percentage change in blood flow between the different alcohol dosages compared to the corresponding sham group. The main blood vessel demonstrated a change of 58 percent after 45 minutes of 1.5g/kg of ethanol exposure, 36 percent change in blood flow after 45 minutes of 3g/kg of ethanol exposure, and 25 percent for 4.5g/kg of ethanol exposure. The total change for the sham group was 12 percent. The standard deviation was calculated from a total of 3 sham samples and 5 ethanol samples for each alcohol dose tested. Images acquired at a later stage (GD17.5) demonstrated a vasodilatory effect on the main blood vessel compared to earlier embryonic stages. These studies evaluated the effects of specific dosages of ethanol exposure at different embryonic stages, demonstrating that higher dosages result in a lower percent change in blood flow when the embryo is constantly exposed to higher amounts of ethanol. The results also demonstrate a change in vasculature at GD17.5 when the embryo has been previously exposed to ethanol at earlier stages (GD12.5, GD13.5, and GD14.5). The main blood vessel had vasodilatory effects when imaged three days after the last ethanol dose (at GD17.5), which demonstrates the effect on cerebral vasculature of long-term alcohol consumption on the developing embryo. Persistent and long-term effects of alcohol consumption demonstrated a change in the vasculature, which eventually led to fetal growth depletion.

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Jessica Gutierrez
University of Houston
United States


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