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Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2005 Jun;230(6):389-93.

Animal model systems for the study of alcohol teratology.

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Department of Veterinary Physiology and Pharmacology and Michael E. DeBakey Institute, Texas A&M University, Highway 60, Building VMA, Room 332, College Station, Texas 77843-4466, USA.


The incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome has not been declining even though alcohol has been established as a teratogen and significant efforts have been made to educate women not to abuse alcohol during pregnancy. In addition to further educational efforts, strategies to prevent or mitigate the damages of prenatal alcohol exposure are now under development. Animal models will play a significant role in the effort to develop these strategies. Because prenatal alcohol exposure causes damage by multiple mechanisms, depending on dose, pattern, and timing of exposure, and because no species of animal is the same as the human, the choice of which animal model to use is complicated. To choose the best animal model, it is necessary to consider the specific scientific question that is being addressed and which model system is best able to address the question. Animal models that are currently in use include nonhuman primates, rodents (rats, mice, guinea pigs), large animal models (pig and sheep), the chick, and simple animals, including fish, insects, and round worms. Each model system has strengths and weaknesses, depending on the question being addressed. Simple animal models are useful in exploring basic science questions that relate to molecular biology and genetics that cannot be explored in higher-order animals, whereas higher-order animal models are useful in studying complex behaviors and validating basic science findings in an animal that is more like the human. Substantial progress in this field will require the judicious use of multiple scientific approaches that use different animal model systems.

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