Birth Defects Insights: Elevating Birth Defects Research in the Mile High City

To register for the 57th Annual Meeting of the Teratology Society, click here. All are welcome!

“U.S. Women Increasingly Use Pot during Pregnancy,” it’s a headline I’m staring at right now as I write this. It’s research being published in journals like JAMA. It’s a potential risk to future babies everywhere – like in Colorado where recreational marijuana use has reportedly increased among the pregnant population. Is getting high in the Mile High City worth any potential risks to the fetus?

Enter teratologists.

Teratologists study exposures during pregnancy that could potentially affect a developing fetus. So what better place to talk about the latest research surrounding marijuana use in pregnancy than in Denver? Marijuana use among pregnant women has risen by as much as 62% according to some reports examining data over a period of time during which several states, including Colorado, have legalized marijuana. In June, hundreds of the world’s leading researchers will convene in Denver at the Teratology Society's 57th Annual Meeting and present research about marijuana exposure in pregnancy, but also reveal research being published right now on Zika virus, e-cigarettes, cocaine and much more. 

What mothers eat, drink and are exposed to in the environment, may have a long and lasting impact on their children. Take alcohol, for example. We have known about many of the adverse consequences of prenatal alcohol exposure for years, and yet we continue to learn more and more about its effects on a developing fetus. Did you know prenatal alcohol exposure affects each woman differently and, as a result, each developing baby differently? There’s no “one-size-fits-all” when it comes to a “safe” amount during pregnancy. Mom’s metabolism, genetics and so many other factors can affect outcomes. That’s just a small example of some of the research presented during past annual Teratology Society meetings by world-renowned investigators, such as pediatrician Kenneth Lyons Jones, MD, a pioneer in the area of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. 

From alcohol to e-cigs. 

Today, we have e-cigarette exposure (either primary or secondary) in the illicit drug use category that has the potential to affect a fetus. It’s a relatively new risk to the pregnant woman, and the complication of legal and illicit drug and alcohol use only further complicates our ability to ensure that our next generation is healthy. E-cigarette use may be another critical prenatal co-exposure to consider just as much as cannabis in Colorado and other states. To be able to get information on how these newer types of co-exposures affect developing babies, as well as the latest information on alcohol use during pregnancy, is of great interest to me not only as a scientist, but also as a citizen.  Colorado’s chief medical officer Larry Wolk, MD will put it all into context in his Keynote Address talking about the impact of marijuana legalization on children and families thus far.  

Don’t forget genetics.

This year I am particularly looking forward to hearing about CRISPR/Cas-9 genome editing from Jacob Corn, PhD, UC Berkeley. This next generation of genome editing of the animal and human genome opens the possibility of improving the lives of persons with many of the human genetic diseases that Teratology Society members have characterized, studied and presented over the years at Annual Meetings. 

We are on the brink of cutting-edge, exciting breakthroughs in genetics, developmental biology, epidemiology, reproduction, prenatal medicine and many other disciplines. The annual Teratology Society meeting allows the issues that cross these disciplines to be discussed, leading to new areas of research and improving treatment options for the fetus and infant, highlighting the importance of birth defects research and, in turn, improving societal health. I hope my fellow colleagues, students and postdoctoral researchers and health care professionals will join me in witnessing these exciting breakthroughs firsthand in Denver. #TS2017 #IamTeratology 

About the Author

Dr. Alan M. Hoberman is a 40-year veteran in toxicology who has specialized in reproductive and developmental toxicology for over 34 years. Currently, he is responsible for designing, supervising and evaluating reproductive, developmental, and juvenile toxicity studies throughout Charles River Laboratories. He is a Diplomate of the American Board of Toxicology, a fellow of the Academy of Toxicological Sciences and is the current Vice President of the Teratology Society. Dr. Hoberman has authored over 85 publications and presented 200 abstracts and lectures in the fields of reproductive and developmental toxicology, neurotoxicology, inhalation toxicology, photobiology and regulatory toxicology.  

About the Teratology Society

Scientists interested or are already involved in research related to topics mentioned in this blog are encouraged to join the Teratology Society and the 57th Annual Meeting June 24 – 28, 2017, the premier source for cutting-edge research and authoritative information related to birth defects and developmentally-mediated disorders. Teratology Society members include those specializing in cell and molecular biology, developmental biology and toxicology, reproduction and endocrinology, epidemiology, nutritional biochemistry, and genetics, as well as the clinical disciplines of prenatal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, neonatology, medical genetics, and teratogen risk counseling. In addition, the Teratology Society publishes the scientific journal, Birth Defects Research.  Learn more at Find the Teratology Society on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.


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