Folic acid deficiency can affect great, great grandchildren`s health

Updated: Sep 27, 2013, 20:45 PM IST

Washington: A new research has suggested that folic acid deficiency can cause severe health problems in offspring, including spina bifida, heart defects and placental abnormalities.

The study reveals that a mutation in a gene necessary for the metabolism of folic acid not only impacts the immediate offspring but can also have detrimental health effects on the next several generations.

Study leader Dr Erica Watson from the Centre for Trophoblast Research at the University of Cambridge, said that though their research focused on genetic mutations which disrupts the break down and metabolism of folic acid, they believe that folic acid deficiency in the diet would have a similar multi-generational impact on health.

Watson asserted that based on their research, they now believe that it may take more than one generation to eliminate the health problems caused by folate deficiency.

The researchers, from the Universities of Cambridge and Calgary, used mice for the study as they metabolize folic acid very similarly to humans and because folic acid deficiency or mutations in the same genes required to break down folic acid in humans result in similar developmental abnormalities and diseases in mice.

For the study, the scientists used mice in which a gene called Mtrr was specifically mutated. The gene is key to the normal progression of the folic acid cycle and, when mutated, it results in abnormal folic acid metabolism causing similar effects to dietary folic acid deficiency.

The researchers found that when either the maternal grandmother or the maternal grandfather had this Mtrr mutation, their genetically normal grandchildren were at risk of a wide spectrum of developmental abnormalities. These developmental abnormalities were also seen in the fourth and fifth generations of mice.

The study has been published in the journal Cell.