Australian medical research marks a landmark breakthrough with an enormous potential of preventing birth defects
The revolutionary introduction of folic acid against spina bifida in new-born babies back in 1991 can now be outreached by the recent medical breakthrough from a team of Australian scientists led by congenital heart disease specialist and biomedical researcher Professor Sally Dunwoodie, from the Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute in Sydney.
According to the team’s discoveries, birth abnormalities affecting more than 8 million babies worldwide, the same abnormalities that also cause 2 million miscarriages can be easily eliminated by using increased doses of vitamin B3 or niacin during the first trimester of pregnancy.
As simple as it may sound, the discovery is considered to be the “blockbuster breakthrough” of the year in Australia, as Professor Dunwoodie’s achievement qualifies him for the Australian of the year award, in the opinion of experts in the field.
“It took 12 years, but the beauty is the simplicity of the prevention. It’s cheap and it’s available, and it’s important that a preventative is like that. I am feeling emotional and so proud of everyone here at the Victor Chang Institute, and all our collaborators in Australia,” Professor Dunwoodie stated.
Moreover, Dr. David Winlaw, paediatric cardiac surgeon at The Children’s Hospital at Westmead and researcher at the University of Sydney, explained that the latest discovery will enormously benefit his work, as it is “the single largest advance in the field I work in for the past 20 years” and it will save million of lives worldwide.
The clinical trials used mice with genetic mutations triggering niacin deficiency and birth defects which were administrated high niacin doses resulted in healthy offspring.
In addition, niacin was also the subject of a trial that led to the conclusion that it could, in some conditions, even prevent melanoma.
The Australian study findings were recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, as experts claim that it could benefit 10 million families worldwide every year.