Melbourne: Researchers have long suspected that genes or environmental factors play a role in causing birth defects.But Australian scientists have for the first time proved that both nature and nurture interact to increase the possibility of these abnormalities.The findings, by scientists from Sydney`s Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute (VCCRI), could explain the reasons behind a host of unexplained congenital birth defects and help minimise the risk of babies born with the abnormalities, the Daily Telegraph reported.Researchers found that a specific gene mutation, combined with low oxygen, or hypoxia, during pregnancy increased tenfold the likelihood of a spine defect called congenital scoliosis.While the potential for hypoxia to disrupt embryo development has been known for almost two centuries, it is the first time that gene mutations have been identified for congenital scoliosis, a condition which affects about one in 1000 newborns.According to the head of VCCRI`s embryology laboratory, Sally Dunwoodie, researchers decided to merge the two in animal models.Mice exposed to the gene mutation and periods of low oxygen were 10 times more likely to have offspring with spine defects, Professor Dunwoodie told AAP.
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