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An overview of current advances in perinatal alcohol exposure and pathogenesis of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

The adverse use of alcohol is a serious global public health problem. Maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy usually causes prenatal alcohol exposure (PAE) in the developing fetus, leading to a spectrum of disorders known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and even fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) throughout the lifelong sufferers. The prevalence of FASD is approximately 7.7 per 1,000 worldwide, and is even higher in developed regions. Generally, Ethanol in alcoholic beverages can impair embryonic neurological development through multiple pathways leading to FASD. Among them, the leading mechanism of FASDs is attributed to ethanol-induced neuroinflammatory damage to the central nervous system (CNS). Although the underlying molecular mechanisms remain unclear, the remaining multiple pathological mechanisms is likely due to the neurotoxic damage of ethanol and the resultant neuronal loss. Regardless of the molecular pathway, the ultimate outcome of the developing CNS exposed to ethanol is almost always the destruction and apoptosis of neurons, which leads to the reduction of neurons and further the development of FASD. In this review, we systematically summarize the current research progress on the pathogenesis of FASD, which hopefully provides new insights into differential early diagnosis, treatment and prevention for patents with FASD.

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