Facial Abnormalities of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
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Prenatal exposure to alcohol (ethanol) results in a continuum of physical, neurological, behavioral, and learning defects collectively grouped under the heading Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) was first defined in 1973 as a condition characterized by pre- and postnatal growth deficiencies, facial abnormalities, and defects of the central nervous system. The pattern of facial defects that occur as a result of ethanol exposure during development primarily affects the midline of the face, altering morphology of the eyes, nose, and lips. Ethanol damage to cranial neural crest cells (CNCC) early in embryonic development is responsible for these minor midline abnormalities. Regulation of the gene sonic hedgehog (shh) during this period of development has been observed to rescue these ethanol-affected CNCC from fated cell death, an association that has not yet been examined as it applies to human cells.