The effects of moderate doses of ethanol on pregnant ewes and their offspring

Jennifer Spear Smith, Purdue University


The present study was a preliminary investigation using the pregnant ewe as a model for human Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Forty-four cross bred ewes were assigned to one of three treatment groups: ethanol (1 g 40% etnanol/kg maternal body weight; n = 16), pairfed with saline injections (n = 15), or control with feed ad libitum and saline injections, (n = 13). Each solution was administered IV. Treatment was initiated on gestational day (GD) 106 and continued every other day until GD 135 for a total of 15 doses. Maternal jugular blood samples were collected each treatment day for subsequent estradiol-17$\beta$ and progesterone concentrations. Placentas were collected at parturition for analysis of cotyledon weight and diameter. Lambs were given a Vigor Score, and videotaped for the first 24 hrs postnatal using time lapse video recordings. On postnatal day 90, 13 lambs were euthanized for histologic analysis of the frontal and parietal cortex, and the hippocampus. Maternal blood ethanol concentration peaked at 120 mg/dl. The placentas from the ethanol-treated ewes contained cotyledons with smaller diameters, p =.01, but the weights of the cotyledons were not different among treatment groups. The ethanol-exposed lambs were less vigorous than the two control groups at one hour postnatal, p =.04. The ethanol-exposed lambs also displayed "hyperactive" exploratory behavior in the first 24 hrs postnatal, p $<$.005. There was no difference in the frontal or parietal cortex, nor in the CA1 and CA3 regions of the hippocampus. These preliminary data indicate that exposure to a modest amount of ethanol during the third trimester equivalent can produce hyperactivity in the neonatal lamb in the absence of gross brain anomalies.




Allrich, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Anatomy & physiology|Animals|Animal diseases|Pathology

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