Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: A StemCellopathy?
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2018 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Prenatal alcohol exposure is a significant worldwide cause of neurodevelopmental disabilities and birth defects that are collectively termed Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASDs). Exposure, commonly during preconception and early pregnancy, overlaps with embryogenesis and early fetal development. During this period, the fate of stem cells is sequentially specified to create a body plan encompassing all organs and tissues. In this chapter, we discuss experimental models and relevant data that explain teratogenicity of alcohol on stem cells, from gametes to early totipotent and pluripotent stem cells to tissue-specific stem cells. Collectively, these data show that stem cell biology is readily perturbed by alcohol exposure, and that alcohol can alter epigenetic and molecular programs that control the lineage specification of stem cells. Many features of FASD may be explained by alcohol actions on embryonic and tissue stem cells. Therefore, FASD may be classified, partly, as a disease of stem cell biology.