According to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (NOFAS), prenatal alcohol exposure can cause a range of physical, mental, or behavioral effects as well as learning disabilities – with possible lifelong implications. This range of effects means that everyone with a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) has a different experience. For people with FASD and their families, getting a diagnosis and treatment can be a frustrating battle. However, it’s worth the fight, because some of these behavioral and learning disabilities have known interventions that can help improve the quality of life for those with FASD.
Dr. Tatiana Foroud, a geneticist with Indiana University School of Medicine, thinks that genes may help explain why each person with FASD has a different experience, even if they had similar exposures to alcohol in the womb. Identifying these genes may offer an important clue for future interventions and treatments for FASD.
For example, it is possible that some genes might help protect people against the effects of prenatal alcohol exposure, while other genes might increase vulnerability. Identifying these genes could highlight new areas for FASD treatment and intervention research.
However, this search for genes requires a large number of people. “We need at least 2,000 people with FASD or prenatal alcohol exposure to find these genes,” says Dr. Foroud. “That’s why we are enrolling people from around the world in our study. To do that, we needed to go online, so people can participate from home.” Participants who complete the study receive a $50 gift card for their efforts.
In an age where people can learn about their ancestry while sitting at the kitchen table, taking part in a genetic research study from home may not seem newsworthy. However, “making our study accessible to more people is the only way we can accomplish this research, which we hope will ultimately bring better treatments and interventions for people with FASD.”