Lab Canada

$1.7M project examines genetic roots of FASD

Winnipeg, MB – The Canadian Institutes of Health Research has awarded $1.37 million in funding to a team at the University of Manitoba that is led by James Davie, Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Chromatin Dynamics. The researchers will study the complex genetic and other factors that contribute to the development of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).

Drinking during pregnancy is known to cause brain damage and physical changes to the developing embryo; however, not every fetus exposed to alcohol will develop into an individual with FASD. This means that a combination of environmental and genetic factors together may determine the susceptibility and the extent of damage.


“We hope this work leads to diagnostic biomarkers of conditions such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder that can be used as early as birth,” said Davie. “It is well established that early diagnosis and intervention can profoundly change the life of a child with this disorder.”


The overarching aim of this project is to discover an “FASD Epi-Code” based on reliable biomarkers that develop in different animal models of FASD. Using the FASD Epi-Code in a personalized medicine approach to patient care, diagnosis and care of affected individuals can be improved and secondary disabilities, therefore reducing the direct and indirect costs of care across a person’s lifetime.


This project is an expansion of an existing international team of researchers and clinicians with a focus on improving the diagnosis, care and prevention of FASD.


Davie, a professor in the Faculty of Medicine, is also a scientist at the Manitoba Institute of Cell Biology (a joint institute between CancerCare Manitoba and the university) and the Manitoba Institute of Child Health.


The other team members are Albert Chudley (University of Manitoba, Health Sciences Centre, Manitoba Institute of Child Health), Marc Del Bigio (CRC in Developmental Neuropathy, University of Manitoba, Manitoba Institute of Child Health), Brenda Elias (University of Manitoba), Abraham Fainsod (Hebrew University), Geoff Hicks (University of Manitoba and Manitoba Institute of Cell Biology), Eilean J McKenzie-Matwiy (University of Manitoba and Manitoba Institute of Cell Biology) and Mojgan Rastegar (University of Manitoba and Manitoba Institute of Child Health).